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CEA-Leti & Dolphin Design Report FD-SOI Breakthrough that Boosts Operating Frequency by 450% and Reduces Power Consumption by 30%

Joint Paper Presented at ISSCC 2021 Shows How New Adaptive Back-Biasing Technique Overcomes Integration Limits in Chip Design Flows

GRENOBLE, France – Feb. 22, 2021 – CEA-Leti and Dolphin Design have developed an adaptive back-biasing (ABB) architecture for FD-SOI chips that can be seamlessly integrated in the digital design flow with industrial-grade qualification, overcoming integration drawbacks of existing ABB techniques.

Fully Depleted Silicon on Insulator (FD-SOI) is a technology that allows the biasing of the transistor’s body that acts as a back gate. Unlike conventional bulk technology, FD-SOI enables a wide voltage range of the body bias. This permits compensating for process, voltage, and temperature (PVT) variations by controlling the threshold voltage. For example, in switch operations, when the switch is on, the body bias is changed to reduce the on-resistance by reducing threshold voltage and allowing more current to pass. That accelerates the circuit. In the off state, the body bias is changed to raise the off-resistance by increasing the threshold voltage, consequently reducing the leakage current. This shows that FD-SOI technology can be used either to accelerate the design or reduce the leakage power.

Presented in a paper at ISSCC 2021, the new ABB technique also allows the application design to maintain a targeted operating frequency over a wide range of operating conditions such as temperature, manufacturing variability and supply voltage. The architecture enables reducing energy consumption of processors in 22nm FD-SOI technology by up to 30 percent and increasing the operating frequency up to 450 percent compared to a technique in which body biased technique is not used. It also improves the manufacturing yield.

“The ABB development is a breakthrough for FD-SOI technology because it shows the first-ever results depicting the enhancement in the circuit performance after using ABB, and it will help increase performances and yields in FD-SOI designs,” said Gaël Pillonnet, a CEA-Leti scientist and an author of the paper, “A 0.021 mm² PVT-Aware Digital-Flow-Compatible Adaptive Back-Biasing Regulator with Scalable Drivers Achieving 450% Frequency Boosting and 30% Power Reduction in 22nm FD-SOI Technology.”

The ABB is being commercialized by Dolphin Design, a leading French company in modular and energy-efficient IPs, platforms and systems on chips (SoC). It is based on CEA-Leti’s proof of concept that was improved and industrialized by Dolphin Design, underscoring the institute’s fruitful collaborations with its industrial partners and its commitment to transferring innovative designs to industry.

“The performances of our ABB IP are state of the art and show the compensation of the variations across process-voltage-temperature (PVT) conditions on a representative number of samples, enabling the usage of this solution in industrial products,” said Andrea Bonzo, IP program manager at Dolphin Design. “Previous efforts in this technique have reported only limited numbers of chips that perform as intended. With our technique, a large number of chips are shown to work properly. ABB is versatile and can be used to drive a large digital area without any limitation for any FD-SOI technology.”

According to the paper, “the well-known adaptive back-biasing (ABB) technique has already shown its capability to reduce power consumption or/and maintain operating frequency by compensating VTH variability according to process corners and temperature. However, previously published ABB architectures provide a limited overview on how to integrate the ABB seamlessly in the digital design flow with industrial-grade qualification. We propose a reusable ABB-IP for any biased digital load, from 0.4-100 mm², with low-area and power overhead, e.g. 1.2% @ 2 mm² and 0.4% @ 10 mm², respectively.”

With this new architecture, the ABB area is relatively small compared to the application design, and in both area and power it allows the application design to maintain its targeted speed (frequency) with a relatively low overhead.

About CEA-Leti (France)

Leti, a technology research institute at CEA, is a global leader in miniaturization technologies enabling smart, energy-efficient and secure solutions for industry. Founded in 1967, CEA-Leti pioneers micro-& nanotechnologies, tailoring differentiating applicative solutions for global companies, SMEs and startups. CEA-Leti tackles critical challenges in healthcare, energy and digital migration. From sensors to data processing and computing solutions, CEA-Leti’s multidisciplinary teams deliver solid expertise, leveraging world-class pre-industrialization facilities. With a staff of more than 1,900, a portfolio of 3,100 patents, 10,000 sq. meters of cleanroom space and a clear IP policy, the institute is based in Grenoble, France, and has offices in Silicon Valley and Tokyo. CEA-Leti has launched 65 startups and is a member of the Carnot Institutes network. Follow us on www.leti-cea.com and @CEA_Leti.

Technological expertise

CEA has a key role in transferring scientific knowledge and innovation from research to industry. This high-level technological research is carried out in particular in electronic and integrated systems, from microscale to nanoscale. It has a wide range of industrial applications in the fields of transport, health, safety and telecommunications, contributing to the creation of high-quality and competitive products.

For more information: www.cea.fr/english

About Dolphin Design

Headquartered in France, Dolphin Design, previously known as Dolphin Integration, is a semiconductor company employing 160 people, including 140 highly qualified engineers.

They provide differentiating platform solutions built on state-of-the-art IPs and architectures, customized by unique system level utilities to deliver fast and secure ASICs, either designed by or for their clients. These platforms are available for various technological processes and optimized for Energy Efficient SoC Design.

Alongside their clients, now exceeding 500 companies, they focus on human, inventive and long-term collaboration to enable them to bring products, powered by innovative and accessible integrated circuits that minimize environmental impact, to the hands of billions of people every day. In consumer markets including IoT, AI and 5G, and in high reliability markets, they unleash SoC designer creativity to deliver differentiation.

For more information: www.dolphin-design.fr

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