Nanoelectronic Mixed-Signal System Design Book Review

Nanoelectronic Mixed-Signal System Design Book Review (ISBN: 978-0-07-182571-9 )
Elias Kougianos, Senior Member IEEE

Teaching traditional Integrated Circuit (IC) Design at the senior and graduate levels has been sharply divided into a very large set of “pure” digital VLSI courses, represented by numerous well-established textbooks, and a much smaller set of analog IC design courses (notice the absence of “VLSI”) most commonly at the graduate level, supported by a very small number of textbooks. The intersection of these sets, commonly known as “Mixed-Signal” or “Analog/Mixed-Signal” (AMS) design, has received even less attention. There are only a handful of textbooks, some at very advanced level and some being collections of loosely connected chapters or papers. On the other hand, all IC design these days is AMS by virtue of the device physics involved and the systems themselves: pure digital systems, even though still tremendously useful for computation, do not reflect daily usage of commodity electronics dictated by our connected society.

The book Nanoelectronic Mixed-Signal System Design amply fills this gap by covering a vast array of topics related to AMS IC design. The book covers the entire spectrum of modern IC technologies, from the design and simulation point-of-view, starting at the schematic level and progressing through to actual physical design, including post-layout simulation and design optimization. The audience for this massive and authoritative treatise is eclectic in its scope (those interested in AMS IC design, particularly at the nano level) but at the same time addressing the needs of everyone in that scope: seniors, Master’s and PhD students as well as engineers and practitioners. Because of the immense and state-of-the-art amount of material covered, it can be used both as a textbook and reference book at the same time.

The author is a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of North Texas, Denton, TX. He is the founder of a laboratory dedicated to the subject of nanoelectronic AMS IC design, the Nano-System Design Laboratory (NSDL), he has published over 170 papers on the subject and has co-authored or edited six other books, mostly in the same area. He has over 15 years of undergraduate and graduate teaching experience in the US and it shows in the structure and style of the book. As the author mentions in the preface (p. xxiii) “The author’s objective is to provide nanoelectronic very large-scale integration (VLSI) design training requiring the shortest possible learning curve.” In the opinion of this reviewer, this objective is accomplished admirably in the book.

The terms “comprehensive”, “massive” and “treatise”, already used to describe the book in this review are not unjustified. At a very large 8.5” × 11” page size and almost 800 pages of dense text, combined with hundreds of figures, diagrams, plots and over a thousand references, there is very little not covered on the subject. The book has 12 chapters and includes a very handy 8-page table of acronyms and a 4-page table of symbols. Each chapter is concluded by a large number of questions and references. Although not formally divided into sections, the book can be considered as covering four wide areas.

The first area consists of chapters 1 through 3 and provides a general overview of the subject. Specifically, chapter 1 discusses the state-of-the-art in nanoelectronic technology. Chapter 2 provides numerous examples of nanoelectronic systems used in our daily life and provides the justification for the need of a paradigm shift when studying the subject. Chapter 3 introduces gently the subject by providing a high-level overview of the design process with special emphasis on nanoelectronic-specific issues such as process variation, power and leakage concerns for battery-operated systems and the effect of post-layout parasitics and effects on the operation of the systems.

The second area is covered in chapters 4 through 7 and gets into the heart of what comprises a nanoelectronic system: its constituent components and subsystems. Chapter 4 discusses the all-important “heart” of a system, namely oscillators and phase locked loops (PLLs). This chapter by itself can serve as a general introduction to the subject. Coupled with the more than 100 references cited in this chapter, it becomes a true reference work. In the same spirit and style, chapter 5 covers analog-to-digital (A2D) and digital-to-analog (D2A) conversion, the primary characteristic of a mixed-signal system. Chapter 6 provides an extensive survey of sensors both at the circuit and system level. Finally, chapter 7 rounds up the system component concentration by describing all major memory types used in today’s systems.

The third area builds on the material covered in the previous area and is focused on mixed-signal system design, simulation and post-layout re-simulation. It consists of chapters 8, 9 and 10. Chapter 8 follows a tutorial approach to mixed-signal system design and attempts to “lucidly discuss all the steps”. This is accomplished by an impressive set of flowcharts, diagrams and examples that succeeds in this difficult objective. This particular chapter will be of great help to those trying to understand the jargon of modern IC design. Chapter 9 covers simulation from all possible viewpoints: from transistor-level continuous time SPICE analysis, to discrete-event behavioral simulation using hardware description languages (HDLs) to the commonly used today mixed frameworks that incorporate both types of simulation. A unique feature of this chapter is the inclusion of the widely used MATLAB® and Simulink® frameworks for exploratory system space exploration using novel and untested technologies. Chapter 10 re-examines the subject covered in chapter 8, namely circuit and system simulation but from the physical point of view. Parasitic effects as well as power and thermal issues are discussed in depth.

The last area, covered in chapters 11 and 12, offers a unique perspective to what this reviewer considers to be the future of AMS simulation: variability-aware, metamodel-based design methodologies, an area where the author has published extensively and is recognized as one of the major contributors on the subject. Chapter 11 sets the stage for what follows in the culminating chapter 12 by analyzing techniques that have been used to address variability inclusion in the design, simulation and design optimization stages. Along with Monte Carlo and similar stochastic techniques, the very recently introduced (at least in AMS system design optimization) swarm methods are examined. Finally, chapter 12 integrates the whole book by looking at complex systems, analyzed through the methodologies presented in previous chapters, and modeled using metamodeling approaches such as classical polynomial and neural network models and the novel concepts of Kriging as applied to this field.

On the whole, the book succeeds in addressing the vast array of topics comprising the subject matter (mixed-signal system design in the nano regime) in a very approachable, intuitive and clear manner. Students, practitioners and instructors will find this book an invaluable resource for teaching or reference.