Impact of Technology Scaling on Leakage Reduction Techniques
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CMOS technology is scaling down to meet the performance, production cost, and power requirements of the microelectronics industry. The increase in the transistor leakage current is one of the most important negative side effects of technology scaling. Leakage affects not only the standby and active power consumption, but also the circuit reliability, since it is strongly correlated to the process variations. Leakage current influences circuit performance differently depending on: operating conditions (e.g., standby, active, burn in test), circuit family (e.g., logic or memory), and environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, supply voltage). Until the introduction of high-K gate dielectrics in the lower nanometer technology nodes, gate leakage will remain the dominant leakage component after subthreshold leakage. Since the way designers control subthreshold and gate leakage can change from one technology to another, it is crucial for them to be aware of the impact of the total leakage on the operation of circuits and the techniques that mitigate it. Consequently, techniques that reduce total leakage in circuits operating in the active mode at different temperature conditions are examined. Also, the implications of technology scaling on the choice of techniques to mitigate total leakage are investigated. This work resulted in guidelines for the design of low-leakage circuits in nanometer technologies. Logic gates in the 65nm, 45nm, and 32nm nodes are simulated and analyzed. The techniques that are adopted for comparison in this work affect both gate and subthreshold leakage, namely, stack forcing, pin reordering, reverse body biasing, and high threshold voltage transistors. Aside from leakage, our analysis also highlights the impact of these techniques on the circuit's performance and noise margins. The reverse body biasing scheme tends to be less effective as the technology scales since this scheme increases the band to band tunneling current. Employing high threshold voltage transistors seems to be one of the most effective techniques for reducing leakage with minor performance degradation. Pin reordering and natural stacks are techniques that do not affect the performance of the device, yet they reduce leakage. However, it is demonstrated that they are not as effective in all types of logic since the input values might switch only between the highly leaky states. Therefore, depending on the design requirements of the circuit, a combination, or hybrid of techniques which can result in better performance and leakage savings, is chosen. Power sensitive technology mapping tools can use the guidelines found as a result of the research in the low power design flow to meet the required maximum leakage current in a circuit. These guidelines are presented in general terms so that they can be adopted for any application and process technology.