Cell libraries and verification

M. Raffelsieper

Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 1 (Research TU/e / Graduation TU/e)

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Digital electronic devices are often implemented using cell libraries to provide the basic logic elements, such as Boolean functions and on-chip memories. To be usable both during the development of chips, which is usually done in a hardware definition language, and for the final layout, which consists of lithographic masks, cells are described in multiple ways. Among these, there are multiple descriptions of the behavior of cells, for example one at the level of hardware definition languages, and another one in terms of transistors that are ultimately produced. Thus, correct functioning of the device depends also on the correctness of the cell library, requiring all views of a cell to correspond with each other. In this thesis, techniques are presented to verify some of these correspondences in cell libraries. First, a technique is presented to check that the functional description in a hardware definition language and the transistor netlist description implement the same behavior. For this purpose, a semantics is defined for the commonly used subset of the hardware definition language Verilog. This semantics is encoded into Boolean equations, which can also be extracted from a transistor netlist. A model checker is then used to prove equivalence of these two descriptions, or to provide a counterexample showing that they are different. Also in basic elements such as cells, there exists non-determinism reflecting internal behavior that cannot be controlled from the outside. It is however desired that such internal behavior does not lead to different externally observable behavior, i.e., to different computation results. This thesis presents a technique to efficiently check, both for hardware definition language descriptions and transistor netlist descriptions, whether non-determinism does have an effect on the observable computation or not. Power consumption of chips has become a very important topic, especially since devices become mobile and therefore are battery powered. Thus, in order to predict and to maximize battery life, the power consumption of cells should be measured and reduced in an efficient way. To achieve these goals, this thesis also takes the power consumption into account when analyzing non-deterministic behavior. Then, on the one hand, behaviors consuming the same amount of power have to be measured only once. On the other hand, functionally equivalent computations can be forced to consume the least amount of power without affecting the externally observable behavior of the cell, for example by introducing appropriate delays. A way to prevent externally observable non-deterministic behavior in practical hardware designs is by adding timing checks. These checks rule out certain input patterns which must not be generated by the environment of a cell. If an input pattern can be found that is not forbidden by any of the timing checks, yet allows non-deterministic behavior, then the cell’s environment is not sufficiently restricted and hence this usually indicates a forgotten timing check. Therefore, the check for non-determinism is extended to also respect these timing checks and to consider only counterexamples that are not ruled out. If such a counterexample can be found, then it gives an indication what timing checks need to be added. Because current hardware designs run at very high speeds, timing analysis of cells has become a very important issue. For this purpose, cell libraries include a description of the delay arcs present in a cell, giving an amount of time it takes for an input change to have propagated to the outputs of a cell. Also for these descriptions, it is desired that they reflect the actual behavior in the cell. On the one hand, a delay arc that never manifests itself may result in a clock frequency that is lower than necessary. On the other hand, a forgotten delay arc can cause the clock frequency being too high, impairing functioning of the final chip. To relate the functional description of a cell with its timing specification, this thesis presents techniques to check whether delay arcs are consistent with the functionality, and which list all possible delay arcs. Computing new output values of a cell given some new input values requires all connections among the transistors in a cell to obtain stable values. Hitherto it was assumed that such a stable situation will always be reached eventually. To actually check this, a wire is abstracted into a sequence of stable values. Using this abstraction, checking whether stable situations are always reached is reduced to analyzing that an infinite sequence of such stable values exists. This is known in the term rewriting literature as productivity, the infinitary equivalent to termination. The final contribution in this thesis are techniques to automatically prove productivity. For this purpose, existing termination proving tools for term rewriting are re-used to benefit from their tremendous strength and their continuous improvements.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Zantema, Hans, Promotor
  • Groote, Jan Friso, Promotor
  • Mousavi, Mohammad, Copromotor
Award date2 Nov 2011
Place of PublicationEindhoven
Print ISBNs978-90-386-2799-1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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    Raffelsieper, M. (2011). Cell libraries and verification. Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. https://doi.org/10.6100/IR717717