Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Electrical Engineering


Electrical Engineering


John Y Oliver


A stability checker is a clocked storage element, much like a flip-flop, which detects unstable and late signals in the pipeline of a digital system. The On-line stability checker operates concurrently with its associated circuit-under-test (CUT). This thesis describes the full custom very-large-scale integration (VLSI) design and testing process of On-Line Stability Checkers. The goals of this thesis are to construct and test Stability Checker designs, and to create a design template for future class projects in the EE 431 Computer-Aided Design (CAD) of VLSI Devices course at Cal Poly.

A method for concurrent fault testing called On-line Stability Checking was introduced by Franco and McCluskey [10] to detect reliability failures. Reliability failures initially manifest themselves as delay faults and transient glitching, which become progressively larger over time due to the wearout of conducting metal lines, eventually leading to functional faults. Stability checkers periodically detect reliability failures by monitoring CUT output signals for unstable and late input signals over a time period after the sampling clock edge.

The checkers are tested by applying variable delayed input test patterns to emulate reliability failures. Consequently, configurable delay chains were incorporated into the system to provide variable delays on the input signal lines. The system also includes external test signal ports.

Circuit and layout designs were implemented in the Electric VLSI Design tool [12] and simulated with LTSPICE [13]. Electric provides Design Rule Checking (DRC) and Layout-versus-Schematic (LVS) utilities for verification. Each module was designed in a bottom-up, hierarchical cell-based approach. Functional simulation, DRC and LVS checks were performed at every subsequent higher cell layer in the design hierarchy. The final chip layout was taped out for fabrication on November 29, 2010 and finished parts were received on July 7, 2011 after two manufacturing delays.

Finished packaged parts were successfully verified for functionality based on SPICE simulations. The stability checkers were tested for flip-flop operation, glitch detection and late signal arrival detection. Configurable delay chains were tested to determine delay resolution and uniformity. Actual delay resolution and range measurements show a 3 to 4 times difference compared to simulated values.

The Electric design template created from this project includes basic CMOS logic gates with uniform standard cell heights. The template contains a 40-pin pad ring cell along with the individual pad ring components. EE 431 students would be able to create custom chips that are compatible for fabrication via the MOSIS MEP service. In future work, the template design library can be expanded to include more logic gate variants of various inputs and drive strengths as well as more complex functional modules.