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Hybrid Subthreshold and Nearthreshold Design Methodology for Energy Minimization

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With the rapid growth in the use of portable electronic devices, more emphasis has recently been placed on low-energy circuit design. Digital subthreshold and nearthreshold CMOS circuit designs offer significant energy savings by operating at a reduced power supply voltage. However, these energy savings come at a critical cost to performance, restricting their use to severely energy-constrained applications. This paper presents a hybrid methodology that integrates characterized nearthreshold and subthreshold standard cells into high-performance functional modules. Within these functional modules, energy minimization is achieved while satisfying performance constraints by replacing non-critical path logic with nearthreshold and subthreshold logic cells. Specifically, the critical path method is used to bind the timing and energy constraints of the design. The design methodology was verified and tested with several benchmarks, including a cryptographic hash function, Skein. An average energy savings of 41.15% was observed at a circuit performance degradation factor of 10. The energy overhead of the level shifters accounted for at least 8.5% of the optimized circuit energy, with an average energy overhead of 26.76%. A heuristic approach for estimating the energy savings of the optimized design is also presented.
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Keywords: CMOS; LOW-ENERGY; MULTIPLE-SUPPLY VOLTAGES; NEARTHRESHOLD OPERATION; SUBTHRESHOLD OPERATION; VLSI

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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  • The electronic systems that can operate with very low power are of great technological interest. The growing research activity in the field of low power electronics requires a forum for rapid dissemination of important results: Journal of Low Power Electronics (JOLPE) is that international forum which offers scientists and engineers timely, peer-reviewed research in this field.
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