The research of David Bol is conducted within the Electronic Circuits and Systems (ECS) group of UCL

Ultra-low-power sensor SoCs for a sustainable IoT

For a massive yet sustainable Internet-of-Things, next-generation smart sensor systems are required to address the five key challenges represented above [D. Bol, "Can We Connect Trillions of IoT Sensors in a Sustainable Way ? A Technology/Circuit Perspective", IEEE S3S Conf., 2015]. Therefore, in the ECS group of UCL, we design ultra-low-power mixed-signal SoCs featuring the four necessary functions: sensing, data processing, RF wireless communications and power management. In order to reach record energy efficiency while preserving  performance, we leverage ultra-low-voltage digital design (ULV < 0.5V) with all-digital time-based implementation of the analog functions.  A recent overview of latest results can be found here: [pdf]


















Ultra-low-voltage logic design in nanometer CMOS technologies

Sub/near-threshold logic is an efficient technique to reduce energy per operation for ultra-low-power applications with low-to-medium requirements in speed performances. Indeed, the operation at ultra-low voltage (Vdd < Vt) significantly reduces switching energy. Nanometer CMOS technologies offer important interests in terms of reduced swicthed capacitances and supply voltage Vdd to meet a given speed contraint. However, implementing subthreshold logic in such technologies raises important challenges as their typical pitfalls (leakage current and variability) are magnified by subthreshold operation. In this context, we target robust and efficient subthreshold design of logic and memory circuits at full SoC level in nanometer CMOS technologies by considering :

  • technology selection and optimization (bulk/SOI, MOSFET scaling and tuning, post-CMOS technologies ...), 
  • standard-cell library design and characterization,
  • timing closure,
  • low-power techniques (DFVS, body biaising, power gating), 
  • design automation and PVT variations, 
  • power-management analog blocks, 
  • circuit/architecture co-design, 
  • adaptive techniques. 
The first full SoC demonstrator of these techniques in Silicon was the SleepWalker SoC (see the chip gallery). Pre-Silicon compact models for simulation of subthreshold logic in 45nm and in 22/20nm  bulk and SOI technologies are available here.

Ultra-low-power (ULP) logic, memories and sensors

A disruptive logic style called ULP was proposed based on the ULP transistor concept (patented) to achieve ultra-low leakage and high noise margins (above Vdd/2) for logic and SRAM at the expense of speed performances. Ring oscillator have been demonstrated through measurements in both bulk and PD SOI 0.13m technology as well as in 0.15m FD SOI technology with undoped devices. ULP logic achieves outstanding leakage current as low as 0.1pA per gate at room temperature and 30pA per gate at 200C. Additionally, other circuits based on the ULP inverter have been, demonstrated in simulation such as : 

  • a 1-V 12-T SRAM cell with read noise noise margin around 700mV,
  • an 8-bit 7-kS/s 1-W interface for capacitive sensors.

Life-cycle assesment of semiconductors

The semiconductor industry and the whole ICT market have a high impact on our environment. We study this impact through life-cycle assesment of various applications from high-performance (servers and laptops) to low-power (set-top boxes and smart phones) to ultra-low-power (wireless sensor nodes, biomedical, RFIDs). We showed that the life-cycle phase with the highest impact strongly depends on the applications.