Manufacturability in the Nanometer Era: Regularity considerations in VLSI Circuits
Each reduction of the technology node has, along with improvements in IC fabrication
technology, been the main driver in delivering the demand for function rich, integrated
mobile electronics that are so prevalent. As devices keep growing smaller and geometries
approach the order of a few atomic layers, it is increasingly difficult to achieve
cost-effective mass production for reasons related to performance and fabrication capability.
The small geometries have made visible quantum-mechanical effects that are not
seen in micron scale geometries. These effects result in parametric variations and additionally,
limitations in the lithographic capability means that cost effective fabrication
is possible only at considerable investment. Adopting regularity in layout has been prescribed
as a means to mitigate variability in small geometries. This measure however, is
not widely adopted due to the lack of a structured methodology in implementing such
layouts. This thesis aims to study the hurdles existing in implementing such a methodology,
at different levels of abstraction.
Increasing design complexity has led to the widespread use of standard cell methodology
to enable shorter design cycles. Typically, the place and route tools rely on heuristic
algorithms that tradeoff run time against performance constraints. The first part of
this thesis presents a novel methodology for regular layout of standard cells in a layout
exploration scenario. The design flow is applied to arithmetic circuits like log-depth
multipliers and shifters in order to assess various tradeoffs.
The second part of this thesis discusses regularity from a circuits perspective rather
than a design perspective. The different factors affecting the implementation of a regular
layout are discussed. In the latter half we discuss aspects of manufacturing, the
sources of variability, assessment techniques and the impact of regularity on mitigating
the negative aspects of technology scaling in the face of engineering limitations.
Finally, the studies will be summarized and the scope of future work will be presented.