For miniaturization of electronics systems, power consumption plays a key role in the realm of constraints. Considering the very large scale integration (VLSI) design aspect, as transistor feature size is decreased to 50 nm and below, there is sizable increase in the number of transistors as more functional building blocks are embedded in the same chip. However, the consequent increase in power consumption (dynamic and leakage) will serve as a key constraint to inhibit the advantages of transistor feature size reduction.
Power consumption can be reduced by minimizing the voltage supply (for dynamic power consumption) and/or increasing threshold voltage (Vth, for reducing leakage power). When the feature size of the transistor is reduced, supply voltage (Vdd) and threshold voltage (Vth) are also reduced accordingly; then, the leakage current becomes a bigger factor of the total power consumption. To maintain low power consumption, operation of electronics at sub-threshold levels can be a potentially strong contender; however, there are two obstacles to be faced: more leakage current per transistor will cause more leakage power consumption, and slow response time when the transistor is operated in weak inversion region.
To enable low power consumption and yet obtain high performance, the CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) transistor as a basic element is viewed and controlled as a four-terminal device: source, drain, gate, and body, as differentiated from the traditional approach with three terminals: i.e., source and body, drain, and gate.
This technique features multiple voltage sources to supply the dynamic control, and uses dynamic control to enable low-threshold voltage when the channel (N or P) is active, for speed response enhancement and high threshold voltage, and when the transistor channel (N or P) is inactive, to reduce the leakage current for low-leakage power consumption.
This work was done by Tuan A. Duong of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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