Analog integrated circuits (IC) are the subject of research in many areas such as energy efficiency, low noise sensor interfaces or high speed signal processing and transmission. The common feature required in all these domains is the robustness; robustness against any kind interferences. Whatever the purpose of the circuit, it must maintain its desired operation under real-world conditions. However typically in the target system, with many other surrounding active elements, there are additional external disturbances (high energy transient pulses, radio-frequency interference and radiation). These disturbances are usually not addressed during the design and simulation phase of the circuit, and often not even tested in an experimental evaluation test setup once the first prototype is available. A sufficient immunity to these effects is especially important in case of e.g. automotive and medical applications, where malfunction of an IC might become a real question of personal safety. However, the continuous demand for very large scale integration electronics, reduced spacing between components on the printed circuit board (PCB), lower supply voltages of the IC and increasing operating speed make it more challenging to build systems immune to external interferences.
The objective of this research project is to find new methods and techniques to improve the current state of analog IC design: starting on the IC block-level with dedicated design techniques and robustness-oriented simulations, through physical layout of test-ICs and finally also focusing on the PCB-level placement and selection of components.
In the first phase of the project the sources of potential disturbances will be identified, such as: external radio-frequency interference (RFI), transient pulses e.g. electrostatic discharge (ESD) and bursts, radiation sources and their intensity, internal interferences in a mixed-signal circuit. These disturbances may enter the circuit indirectly e.g. through connected cables or signal loops on the PCB acting as potential antennas for noise, or they can occur as a slow damage or degradation in case of radiation. The challenge of this project phase is to translate their influence onto an equivalent circuit-level disturbance model. The next step is to simulate the effects of the modeled disturbances and to accordingly modify the electronic circuit to maintain the desired functionality while improving immunity to the potential hazards.
Finally, once selected test-ICs are fabricated and placed on a carefully optimized PCB, experimental comparison with the simulations is envisaged. The principal goals for the project are: understanding the influence of external and internal interferences in basic analog building blocks and defining design guidelines for robust analog IC as well as PCB design to ensure first time right designs of integrated circuit and final electronic applications.