# Lecture 16: Circuit Pitfalls

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1 Introduction to CMOS VLSI Design Lecture 16: Circuit Pitfalls David Harris Harvey Mudd College Spring 2004

2 Outline Pitfalls Detective puzzle Given circuit and symptom, diagnose cause and recommend solution All these pitfalls have caused failures in real chips Noise Budgets Reliability Slide 2

3 Bad Circuit 1 2:1 multiplexer D0 D1 S S Principle: Mux works when selected D is 0 but not 1. Or fails at low V DD. Or fails in SFSF corner. Solution: Slide 3

4 Bad Circuit 1 2:1 multiplexer D0 D1 S S Mux works when selected D is 0 but not 1. Or fails at low V DD. Or fails in SFSF corner. Principle: Threshold drop never rises above V DD -V t V t is raised by the body effect The threshold drop is most serious as V t becomes a greater fraction of V DD. Solution: Slide 4

5 Bad Circuit 1 2:1 multiplexer D0 D1 S S Mux works when selected D is 0 but not 1. Or fails at low V DD. Or fails in SFSF corner. Principle: Threshold drop never rises above V DD -V t V t is raised by the body effect The threshold drop is most serious as V t becomes a greater fraction of V DD. Solution: Use transmission gates, not pass transistors Slide 5

6 Bad Circuit 2 Latch Load a 0 into Q Set = 0 D Q Eventually Q spontaneously flips to 1 Principle: Solution: Slide 6

7 Bad Circuit 2 Latch Load a 0 into Q Set = 0 D Q Eventually Q spontaneously flips to 1 Principle: Leakage is a dynamic node holding value as charge on the node Eventually subthreshold leakage may disturb charge Solution: Slide 7

8 Bad Circuit 2 Latch D Q Load a 0 into Q Set = 0 Eventually Q spontaneously flips to 1 Principle: Leakage is a dynamic node holding value as charge on the node Eventually subthreshold leakage may disturb charge Solution: Staticize node with feedback Or periodically refresh node (requires fast clock, not practical processes with big leakage) D Q Slide 8

9 Bad Circuit 3 Domino AND gate 0 1 Precharge gate (=0) Then evaluate Eventually spontaneously flips to 1 Principle: Solution: Slide 9

10 Bad Circuit 3 Domino AND gate 0 1 Precharge gate (=0) Then evaluate Eventually spontaneously flips to 1 Principle: Leakage is a dynamic node holding value as charge on the node Eventually subthreshold leakage may disturb charge Solution: Slide 10

11 Bad Circuit 3 Domino AND gate 0 1 Precharge gate (=0) Then evaluate Eventually spontaneously flips to 1 Principle: Leakage is a dynamic node holding value as charge on the node Eventually subthreshold leakage may disturb charge Solution: Keeper 0 1 Slide 11

12 Bad Circuit 4 Pseudo-nMOS OR A B When only one input is true, = 0. Perhaps only happens in SF corner. Principle: Solution: Slide 12

13 Bad Circuit 4 Pseudo-nMOS OR A B When only one input is true, = 0. Perhaps only happens in SF corner. Principle: Ratio Failure nmos and pmos fight each other. If the pmos is too strong, nmos cannot pull low enough. Solution: Slide 13

14 Bad Circuit 4 Pseudo-nMOS OR A B When only one input is true, = 0. Perhaps only happens in SF corner. Principle: Ratio Failure nmos and pmos fight each other. If the pmos is too strong, nmos cannot pull low enough. Solution: Check that ratio is satisfied in all corners Slide 14

15 Bad Circuit 5 Latch D weak Principle: Q Q stuck at 1. May only happen for certain latches where input is driven by a small gate located far away. Solutions: Slide 15

16 Bad Circuit 5 Latch D weak Principle: Ratio Failure (again) Series resistance of D driver, wire Solutions: Q resistance, and tgate must be much less than weak feedback inverter. Q stuck at 1. May only happen for certain latches where input is driven by a small gate located far away. D stronger weak Q Slide 16

17 Bad Circuit 5 Latch D weak Q Principle: Ratio Failure (again) Series resistance of D driver, wire resistance, and tgate must be much less than weak feedback inverter. Solutions: Check relative strengths Q stuck at 1. May only happen for certain latches where input is driven by a small gate located far away. Avoid unbuffered diffusion inputs where driver is unknown D stronger weak Q Slide 17

18 Bad Circuit 6 Domino AND gate A B Principle: Z Precharge gate while A = B = 0, so Z = 0 Set = 1 A rises Z is observed to sometimes rise Solutions: Slide 18

19 Bad Circuit 6 Domino AND gate Principle: Charge Sharing If was low, it shares charge with Solutions: A B Z Precharge gate while A = B = 0, so Z = 0 Set = 1 A rises Z is observed to sometimes rise A B C x C Z Slide 19

20 Bad Circuit 6 Domino AND gate A B Principle: Charge Sharing If was low, it shares charge with Solutions: Limit charge sharing C V = V = V x DD Cx + C Safe if C >> C Or precharge node too Z Precharge gate while A = B = 0, so Z = 0 Set = 1 A rises Z is observed to sometimes rise Slide 20 A B C x C Z

21 Bad Circuit 7 Dynamic gate + latch 0 Principle: Precharge gate while transmission gate latch is opaque Evaluate When latch becomes transparent, falls Solution: Slide 21

22 Bad Circuit 7 Dynamic gate + latch 0 Principle: Charge Sharing If was low, it shares charge with Solution: Precharge gate while transmission gate latch is opaque Evaluate When latch becomes transparent, falls Slide 22

23 Bad Circuit 7 Dynamic gate + latch 0 Principle: Charge Sharing If was low, it shares charge with Solution: Buffer dynamic nodes before driving transmission gate Precharge gate while transmission gate latch is opaque Evaluate When latch becomes transparent, falls Slide 23

24 Bad Circuit 8 Latch D GND V DD V DD weak Q Q changes while latch is opaque Especially if D comes from a far-away driver Principle: Solution: Slide 24

25 Bad Circuit 8 Latch D GND V DD V DD weak Q Q changes while latch is opaque Especially if D comes from a far-away driver Principle: Diffusion Input Noise Sensitivity If D < -V t, transmission gate turns on Most likely because of power supply noise or coupling on D Solution: Slide 25

26 Bad Circuit 8 Latch D GND V DD V DD weak Q Q changes while latch is opaque Especially if D comes from a far-away driver Principle: Diffusion Input Noise Sensitivity If D < -V t, transmission gate turns on Most likely because of power supply noise or coupling on D Solution: Buffer D locally 0 D V DD Q V DD weak Slide 26

27 Bad Circuit 9 Anything Some gates are slower than expected Principle: Slide 27

28 Bad Circuit 9 Anything Some gates are slower than expected Principle: Hot Spots and Power Supply Noise Slide 28

29 Noise Sources Power supply noise / ground bounce Capacitive coupling Charge sharing Leakage Noise feedthrough Consequences Increased delay (for noise to settle out) Or incorrect computations Slide 29

30 Reliability Hard Errors Soft Errors Failure Rate Infant Mortality Useful Operating Life Wear Out Time Slide 30

31 Electromigration Electron wind causes movement of metal atoms along wires Excessive electromigration leads to open circuits Most significant for unidirectional (DC) current Depends on current density J dc (current / area) Exponential dependence on temperature Black s Equation: MTTF e J E a kt n dc Typical limits: J dc < 1 2 ma / µm 2 See videos Slide 31

32 Self-Heating Current through wire resistance generates heat Oxide surrounding wires is a thermal insulator Heat tends to build up in wires Hotter wires are more resistive, slower Self-heating limits AC current densities for reliability I rms = T 0 2 I() t dt T Typical limits: J rms < 15 ma / µm 2 Slide 32

33 Hot Carriers Electric fields across channel impart high energies to some carriers These hot carriers may be blasted into the gate oxide where they become trapped Accumulation of charge in oxide causes shift in V t over time Eventually V t shifts too far for devices to operate correctly Choose V DD to achieve reasonable product lifetime Worst problems for inverters and NORs with slow input risetime and long propagation delays Slide 33

34 Latchup Latchup: positive feedback leading to V DD GND short Major problem for 1970 s CMOS processes before it was well understood Avoid by minimizing resistance of body to GND / V DD Use plenty of substrate and well taps GND A V DD p+ n+ n+ p+ p+ n+ R well V well R sub p substrate n well n well V well R well V sub R sub substrate tap V sub well tap Slide 34

35 Guard Rings Latchup risk greatest when diffusion-to-substrate diodes could become forward-biased Surround sensitive region with guard ring to collect injected charge Slide 35

36 Overvoltage High voltages can damage transistors Electrostatic discharge Oxide arcing Punchthrough Time-dependent dielectric breakdown (TDDB) Accumulated wear from tunneling currents Requires low V DD for thin oxides and short channels Use ESD protection structures where chip meets real world Slide 36

37 Summary Static CMOS gates are very robust Will settle to correct value if you wait long enough Other circuits suffer from a variety of pitfalls Tradeoff between performance & robustness Very important to check circuits for pitfalls For large chips, you need an automatic checker. Design rules aren t worth the paper they are printed on unless you back them up with a tool. Slide 37

38 Soft Errors In 1970 s, DRAMs were observed to occasionally flip bits for no apparent reason Ultimately linked to alpha particles and cosmic rays Collisions with particles create electron-hole pairs in substrate These carriers are collected on dynamic nodes, disturbing the voltage Minimize soft errors by having plenty of charge on dynamic nodes Tolerate errors through ECC, redundancy Slide 38

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