A critical PECL (positive emitter-coupled logic) interface to Xilinx interface needed to be changed on an existing flight board. The new Xilinx input interface used a CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) type of input, and the driver could meet its thresholds typically, but not in worst-case, according to the data sheet. The previous interface had been based on comparison with an external reference, but the CMOS input is based on comparison with an internal divider from the power supply. A way to measure what the exact input threshold was for this device for 64 inputs on a flight board was needed.

The measurement technique allowed an accurate measurement of the voltage required to switch a Xilinx input from high to low for each of the 64 lines, while only probing two of them. Directly driving an external voltage was considered too risky, and tests done on any other unit could not be used to qualify the flight board. The two lines directly probed gave an absolute voltage threshold calibration, while data collected on the remaining 62 lines without probing gave relative measurements that could be used to identify any outliers.

The PECL interface was forced to a long-period square wave by driving a saturated square wave into the ADC (analog to digital converter). The active pulldown circuit was turned off, causing each line to rise rapidly and fall slowly according to the input’s weak pull-down circuitry. The fall time shows up as a change in the pulse width of the signal ready by the Xilinx. This change in pulse width is a function of capacitance, pulldown current, and input threshold. Capacitance was known from the different trace lengths, plus a gate input capacitance, which is the same for all inputs. The pull-down current is the same for all inputs including the two that are probed directly. The data was combined, and the Excel solver tool was used to find input thresholds for the 62 lines. This was repeated over different supply voltages and temperatures to show that the interface had voltage margin under all worst case conditions.

Gate input thresholds are normally measured at the manufacturer when the device is on a chip tester. A key function of this machine was duplicated on an existing flight board with no modifications to the nets to be tested, with the exception of changes in the FPGA program.

This work was done by Igor Kuperman, Daniel G. Gutrich, and Andrew C. Berkun of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47705

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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