VLSI Fundamentals:
A Practical Approach Education Kit

Teach the fundamentals of Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI), including how the theories and concepts can be applied in the design of simple logic circuits and in the physical implementation of a simplified microprocessor.

 

Kit specification:

  • Summary: A full set of 20 modules with lecture slides and lab exercises (in selected modules) ready for use in a typical 10-12-week undergraduate course (full syllabus below).
  • Modular and Flexible Use: Teaching staff have the freedom to choose which modules to teach – use all the modules in the Education Kit or only those that are most appropriate to your teaching outcomes.
  • Level: Advanced. Students are required to have an understanding of digital electronics and the basics of hardware description language (Verilog).
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Course aim

To produce students with solid introductory knowledge on VLSI concepts and application of these concepts in simulation, verification, and physical implementation of a simplified microprocessor using standard industry tools.

 

Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge and understanding of
    • The characteristics of the nonideal transistor due to high field effects, channel length modulation, threshold voltage effects and leakage
    • How to estimate the characteristics of CMOS circuits including noise margins, DC response and RC delay models.
    • How to estimate the resistance and capacitance of on-chip wires and describe methods to optimize wire delay, power consumption and crosstalk in on-chip wires.
    • The operation of CMOS latches and flip-flops and plan cell layouts using stick diagrams.
    • The limits imposed by timing constraints such as setup and hold time, propagation and contamination delays in sequential circuits.
    • The importance of testing in chip design and the concepts of stuck-at fault, Automatic Test Pattern Generation, Built in Self Test.
    • The different SRAM architecture.
    • The sources of power dissipation in a circuit and methods to control power losses.
    • The implications of clock distribution networks on skew and clock power consumption.
    • The sources and effects of on-chip variation.
    • How to simulate a circuit using Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis (SPICE) to determine its DC transfer characteristics, Transient response and Power consumption.

       

  • Intellectual
    • Outline the key characteristics/features of nMOS and pMOS transistors and draw the cross section of a CMOS inverter.
    • Use plots and cross section diagrams to describe the current and voltage (I-V) characteristics of the MOS device when operating in cut off, linear and saturation regions.
    • Describe the effects of technology scaling on the number and cost of transistors power dissipation in devices.
    • Explain logical effort and show how it can be applied in minimizing the delay of a combinational circuit path.
    • Explain and demonstrate techniques used to optimize combinational logic circuits for best critical paths and best delay/power trade-offs for logic gates.
    • Describe and explain the features of different adder architectures including: Carry-Ripple Adder, Carry-Skip Adder, Carry-Lookahead Adder, Carry-Select Adder, Carry-Increment Adder and Tree Adder.
    • Design and describe the operation of data path circuits such as comparators, shifters, multi-input adders and multipliers.
    • Describe the operation of Electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection circuits using their circuit diagram.
    • Describe the implementation of a simplified processor at abstraction levels including: Architecture, Microarchitecture, Logic Design, Circuit Design, Physical Design, Verification & Test.

       

  • Practical
    • Design, implement, simulate, and verify simple logic gates from transistor level schematic to layout.
    • Use NC-Verilog to simulate and verify the operation of logic blocks.
    • Use design compiler to synthesize logic gates from hardware description language and use SOC Encounter to place and route logic design.
    • Assemble a chip from schematic, layout, add pad frame and then tape out in GDSII format.

 

Syllabus

1 Introduction to VLSI
2 Circuits and Layout
3 Processor Example
4 CMOS Transistor Theory
5 Nonideal Transistor Theory
6 DC & Transient Response
7 Logical Effort
8 Power
9 Scaling
10 Simulation
11 Combinational Circuit Design
12 Sequential Circuit Design
13 Wires
14 Adders
15 Datapath Functional Units
16 SRAM
17 Clocking
18 Variation & Reliability
19 Test
20 Packaging, I/O & Power Distribution
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