Upper Bound Estimation for the Noise Current Spectrum of Digital Circuit Blocks

Alessandra Nardi1 and Luca Daniel
(Professor Alberto L. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli)
Semiconductor Research Corporation

The complexity of the systems-on-a-chip design requires an aggressive re-use of intellectual property (IP) circuit blocks. However, IP blocks can be safely re-used only if they do not affect other sensitive components. The switching activity of CMOS digital circuit blocks typically produces high frequency current noise both into the Gnd/Vdd system, and into the substrate of integrated circuits. Such currents can potentially affect circuit reliability and performance of other sensitive components. For instance the Gnd/Vdd currents may produce electromigration, IR voltage drops, voltage oscillations due to resonances, and, possibly, electromagnetic interference. The substrate currents may couple noise to sensitive analog circuitry through body effect or direct capacitive coupling. An analysis of current injection due to switching activity is needed to properly account for all such effects during the design phase. Different effects require different types of current injection models. For instance, power consumption analysis requires time-domain average current estimation over several clock periods. IR drop, electromigration, and timing performance analysis require a time-domain noise current upper-bound with respect to all possible combinations of the inputs. Signal integrity, Gnd/Vdd grid resonances, electromagnetic interference, and substrate coupling on mixed-signal ICs, on the other hand, require an upper-bound on the spectrum of the current injected into the Gnd/Vdd system or into the substrate, respectively. Methodologies developed so far do not address this latter kind of analysis. Therefore, for these problems we are developing a methodology for estimating an upper bound over all possible input combinations for the spectrum of the noise current injected by the switching activity of digital blocks. The methodology identifies an upper bound for the spectrum of a circuit noise current by combining the noise current injected by each gate and accounting for the circuit logic functionality.

A. Nardi, L. Daniel, and A. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, A Methodology for the Computation of an Upper Bound on Noise Current Spectrum of CMOS Switching Activity, UC Berkeley Electronics Research Laboratory, Memorandum No. UCB/ERL M02/20, June 2002.
1Postdoctoral Researcher

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