_ _ _ _ _ _
WHY ASYNCHRONOUS VLSI?
home research publications
people classes chips
_


_

The main advantages of asynchronous QDI logic are as follows:

  • Since no clocks are used, all issues related to clock design and distribution (PLL design, noise, jitter, clock skew, power consumption,...) are avoided.

  • Synchronizing several units with completely unrelated speeds can be done without latency penalty. In a clocked implementation, the arbiter needed for the synchronization requires a safety margin of several cycles to eliminate the risks of synchronization failure. Such a latency overhead restricts the use of arbiters to the synchronization of external events. In an asynchronous system, arbiters can be used at no cost.

  • The "cycle quantization" requirement of clocked system aligns the duration of all actions of a functional unit to the worst-case delay. This requirement penalizes or even prohibits solutions with a low average latency and a high worst case. In an asynchronous system, data dependency in the operation of a functional unit can be used to drastically reduce the average latency of the unit.

  • Since QDI circuits operate correctly almost entirely independently of delays, they are very robust to physical parameter ("PVT") variations. Such variations can be accidental, for instance because of increasing fabrication difficulties like doping fluctuations, or they can be wanted by the designer: Temperature and voltage can be varied to adjust speed or power consumption. For instance, simple cooling techniques can lead to important speed improvements (between two and three-fold speed improvement at liquid nitrogen temperature for our circuits).

  • Asynchronous QDI techniques can be used for low power and low energy design due to the absence of a global clock, the locality of activity, the automatic shut-off of inactive parts, the absence of spurious transitions, and the ability to operate a QDI circuit at very low voltage (subthreshold).

  • Because of their simple interfaces, asynchronous systems are very modular, which greatly improves design efficiency, in particular for large systems like sytems-on-a-chip (SoCs), and for design exchange through "Intellectual Property" type of modules.

An overview of the research in Asynchronous VLSI at Caltech as of 2007 can be found in this Powerpoint presentation. A good introduction to QDI design can be found in this IEEE Proceedings paper.

To see some of the circuits designed by the Caltech group, please visit the chips page.

_
Back to Asynchronous VLSI Group Home
Mailing Address: Alain Martin, Department of Computer Science, Caltech 256-80, Pasadena CA 91125, USA.
This research is supported by the National Science Foundation.
Last Modified: May 2008