Low Power Decoding Circuits for Ultra Portable Devices

Reza Meraji

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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A wide spread of existing and emerging battery driven wireless devices do not necessarily demand high data rates. Rather, ultra low power, portability and low cost are the most desired characteristics. Examples of such applications are wireless sensor networks (WSN), body area networks (BAN), and a variety of medical implants and health-care aids. Being small, cheap and low power for the individual transceiver nodes, let those to be used in abundance in remote places, where access for maintenance or recharging the battery is
limited. In such scenarios, the lifetime of the battery, in most cases, determines the lifetime of the individual nodes. Therefore, energy consumption has to be so low that the nodes remain operational for an extended period of time, even up to a few years. It is known that using error correcting codes (ECC) in a wireless link can potentially help to reduce the transmit power considerably. However, the power consumption of the coding-decoding hardware itself is critical in an ultra low power transceiver node. Power and silicon
area overhead of coding-decoding circuitry needs to be kept at a minimum in the total energy and cost budget of the transceiver node. In this thesis, low power approaches in decoding circuits in the framework of the mentioned applications and use cases are investigated. The presented work is based on the 65nm CMOS technology and is structured in four parts as follows:
In the first part, goals and objectives, background theory and fundamentals of the presented work is introduced. Also, the ECC block in coordination with its surrounding environment, a low power receiver chain, is presented. Designing and implementing an ultra low power and low cost wireless transceiver node introduces challenges that requires special considerations at various levels of abstraction. Similarly, a competitive solution often
occurs after a conclusive design space exploration. The proposed decoder circuits in the following parts are designed to be embedded in the low power receiver chain, that is introduced in the first part.
Second part, explores analog decoding method and its capabilities to be embedded in a compact and low power transceiver node. Analog decod-
ing method has been theoretically introduced over a decade ago that followed with early proof of concept circuits that promised it to be a feasible low power solution. Still, with the increased popularity of low power sensor networks, it has not been clear how an analog decoding approach performs in terms of power, silicon area, data rate and integrity of calculations in recent technologies and for low data rates. Ultra low power budget, small size requirement
and more relaxed demands on data rates suggests a decoding circuit with limited complexity. Therefore, the four-state (7,5) codes are considered for hardware implementation. Simulations to chose the critical design factors are presented. Consequently, to evaluate critical specifications of the decoding circuit, three versions of analog decoding circuit with different transistor
dimensions fabricated. The measurements results reveal different trade-off possibilities as well as the potentials and limitations of the analog decoding approach for the target applications. Measurements seem to be crucial, since the available computer-aided design (CAD) tools provide limited assistance and precision, given the amount of calculations and parameters that has to be included in the simulations. The largest analog decoding core (AD1) takes
0.104mm2 on silicon and the other two (AD2 and AD3) take 0.035mm2 and
0.015mm2, respectively. Consequently, coding gain in trade-off with silicon area and throughput is presented. The analog decoders operate with 0.8V supply. The achieved coding gain is 2.3 dB at bit error rates (BER)=0.001 and 10 pico-Joules per bit (pJ/b) energy efficiency is reached at 2 Mbps.
Third part of this thesis, proposes an alternative low power digital decoding approach for the same codes. The desired compact and low power goal has been pursued by designing an equivalent digital decoding circuit that is fabricated in 65nm CMOS technology and operates in low voltage (near-threshold) region. The architecture of the design is optimized in system and circuit levels to propose a competitive digital alternative. Similarly, critical specifications of the decoder in terms of power, area, data rate (speed) and
integrity are reported according to the measurements. The digital implementation with 0.11mm2 area, consumes minimum energy at 0.32V supply which gives 9 pJ/b energy efficiency at 125 kb/s and 2.9 dB coding gain at BER=0.001.
The forth and last part, compares the proposed design alternatives based on the fabricated chips and the results attained from the measurements to conclude the most suitable solution for the considered target applications.
Advantages and disadvantages of both approaches are discussed. Possible extensions of this work is introduced as future work.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Electrical and Information Technology
  • Öwall, Viktor, Supervisor
Award date2014 Oct 17
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2014-10-17
Time: 10:15
Place: Lecture hall E:1406, Department of Electrical and Information Technology, Ole Römers väg 3, Lund University Faculty of Engineering

External reviewer(s)

Name: Winstead, Chris
Title: Associate Professor
Affiliation: Utah State University, USA


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering


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