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Low power synchronization module for digital systems

Sagar B. Girawale

National Institute of Electronics and IT, Aurangabad,

Maharashtra, India

[email protected]

Abstract- The advancements and scaling in technology are continuously increasing in accordance with Moore's Law. This results in an increase in the performance of chips, but comes with a price due to the increased power consumption, and hence resources are spent on cooling, packaging and other methods to reduce the after effects. This additional cost has to be eliminated, and the most obvious solution is to reduce the power consumption of a design which would also protect the chips from permanent failure due to additional heat in the chips. This paper presents a new systematic approach to flip-flop design using Internal Clock Gating (ICG) minimize the dynamic power. The results obtained give interesting insights into the effectiveness of clock gating.

Keywords- Dynamic power dissipation, clock gating, Synopsys tool, Saed90mm library, integrated clock gating etc.



In recent years, power-sensitive designs has been developed very significantly. This has mainly due to the rapid increment of electronics devices which are battery-operated such as notebook, laptop, computers, cellular phones, and many more communication devices. Semiconductor devices are scaled to new technology which provides high-performance and high integration density. Because of increment in density of transistors and used at higher frequencies of operation, the power consumption is increasing of changes occurs in the technology. Supply voltage is managed to keep the power consumption within limit [5]. The scaling of supply voltage does not be satisfactory to uphold the power density with respect to limit, which is need of power sensitive devices. Circuit and system-level are the main techniques which are also required along with supply voltage scaling to gain low-power designs [10].

In small scaled designs, a major part of the total power consumption in high performance digital circuits is occurs because of leakage currents. The high-performance systems are subject to pre-defined power plan which gives efficient power reduction in digital circuits. It also helps to reduce the power consumption during standby operation of the system. Hence, these are the main techniques which are used to reduce leakage power to maintain high performance. Furthermore, as different components which increase leakage power are also becoming important with technology scaling. So low-power circuit techniques are used to reduce total power in high-performance small-scale circuits [6].


There are two types of power dissipation which are:

• Dynamic power dissipation

• Static power dissipation


Dynamic power dissipation is also categorized in two types which are as follows:

1. Switching power which occurs because of charging of load capacitance and discharging of load capacitance.

2. Short circuit power which occurs mainly because of the disturbance in input waveforms. The switching power can be expressed as         

  Dynamic power = α CL VDD2 f

      Where α = switching activity,

f = operation frequency,

CL = load capacitance,

VDD = supply voltage.

The short circuit power is given by

Short circuit power = β* (VDD – Vth) ^3 *t/ 12T


      Where β = transistor coefficient,

t = rise/fall time (timing parameters),

T (1/f) = delay.

1.2.2. Leakage power

It has three components because of that leakage occurs in system:

1. Sub-threshold leakage is the leakage current which flows drain to source (Isub)).

2. Direct tunneling gate leakage is occurs due to electron (or hole) tunneling which is  from the bulk silicon bulk to gate through the gate oxide potential barrier

3. Reverse-biased p-n junction leakage is mainly due to source and drain (substrate)

Fig.1 - Leakage paths in a CMOS inverter


At the time of IC design, voltage variations, temperature variations, manufacturing process, are becoming an important topics on the performance of systems on silicon, as the size of SoCs increases and the process technology advances. Components such as logic circuits, memories on chip are all affected, but the performance of synchronizers which are used to synchronize data which passes from one core to another core as each core has different clock. This may affect the system performance to a greater extent than other components because the synchronizer performance depends on small signal rather than large signal behaviour. Synchronization is a main part of the on-chip communication which affect the system performance. As the size of SoCs increases, the device dimensions shrink [17].

In a GALS system, different cores are modified to operate at different frequencies to achieve low power and maximum performance. Synchronization is used for data passing between different clock domains. To understand this, let us look at a flip-flop. As shown in Figure 3, data from a one clock region is an asynchronous signal which given to first the flip-flop. When it comes close to the clock edge, then there is possibility of setup condition violation which result in metastability condition may be occur at the output of the  first flip-flop. Metastability is occurs due to irregular behavior of logic levels as shown in fig.2 which may cause failures in following circuit blocks which are designed only for definite logic levels. As metastability condition occurs, it help to specify logic level either 0 or 1 with respect to particular speed. If we couldn’t managed metastability before the next rising edge of the read clock, then output of first flip-flop goes to next flip-flop, which will create failure of system [24].

Fig.2- Metastability in flip-flop

Synchronizers are used to retime data passing between different clock regions, they are not used to avoid the metastability, but to leave some time for the metastability to resolve itself before the data is sampled by the following circuit. Fig.3 shows two flip-flop synchronizer. If data input comes close to the rising edge of the clock, then metastability may occur in the first flip-flop, so a full clock cycle is used for the metastability to resolve itself. To avoid this, metastability should be solve before the next clock edge, otherwise indeterminate level will be transferred to any subsequent circuit block, potentially resulting in system failures [26].

Fig.3- Two flip-flops synchronizer

Synchronization is usually restricted to control signals rather than data signals in order to reduce the number of synchronizers required. Fig. 4 shows a simple example of using synchronizers in system. Here Core A has some data to send to Core B. First the data is put onto the bus and the Req signal is sent to Core B through the on-chip network composed of the synchronizers and routers. When the Core B receives the Req signal it samples the data on the bus and sends the Ack signal back to Core A. For this communication architecture each core needs at least two synchronizers for the Req and Ack signals [28].

Fig.4- Synchronizers in system


Future SoCs are likely to consist of many synchronizers on a single chip as the number of IP cores incorporated increases. For example, in a 64-core processor system, at least 128 synchronizers are needed by considering that one core needs at least two synchronizers for its input and output. In future SoCs, the on-chip communication including synchronization, routing and buffering is likely to affect the system performance more than processing. The performance of the system depends on the performance of the synchronizers [31].

The simple synchronizer includes two flip-flops. Metastability may occur at the first flip-flop. So to avoid metastability, full clock cycle is required. MTBF can be increased by increasing the clock period which is the synchronization time. However, the resolution of metastability in a two flip-flop synchronizer is relatively slow, which makes it unsuitable for high speed applications where clock frequencies are high. In the past, many different synchronizers with improved performance have been proposed. However, main problems in synchronizers is that performance decreases as the VDD and VTH increases, which determines the synchronizer performance depends on the small signal behaviour of the bistable element in the synchronizers[33]. This situation is aggravated by lowering the temperature which results in a higher threshold voltage. Consequently, the synchronizer performance is sensitive to Vdd, Vth and temperature variations. With the wider use of power saving techniques and the advances in process technology, Vdd will become lower and lower where synchronizers may fail to work. In addition, increasing on-chip variability could significantly degrade the synchronizer performance. Therefore, it is necessary to design synchronizers which are able to work at low Vdd and are robust to the Vdd, Vth and temperature variations [31].


As the leakage power increases considerably because of changes in the scaling methods. Because of that, variations in dynamic power increases which creates failure of system. To avoid this, there are many techniques to reduce dynamic power which are as follows

• Transistor size and interconnect optimization,

• Gated clock,

• Multiple supply voltages

• Dynamic control of supply voltage.

By using above methods at the time of IC design, we can minimize the dynamic power [34].

3.1. Clock gating

Clock gating is an important techniques to avoid excessive power dissipation which occurs due to dynamic power dissipation digital integrated circuits. We can provide clock to synchronous circuits like microprocessor only when it is active at any specified time by using clock gating methodology. Because of this, unwanted power dissipation can be avoided. Hence clock gating techniques is very efficient to synchronous digital circuits to avoid power dissipation. Clock gating circuit implemented to synchronous circuits which specifies which portion is clock gated at given time interval as shown in fig.5 [35].

Clock-gating methodology results in toggling of gated circuit between ON-OFF states. The clock-gating control circuit is as big as the synchronous circuit, so because of this, clock gating circuit can dissipate more power than that without clock gating circuit [35].   

Fig.5- – Basic implementation of Clock Gating

3.2. Setup and hold time requirement

Fig.6- setup and hold time requirement with waveforms


Power Compiler tool determines that clock gating used for providing better power saving method and also insert clock gating to design which may be create clock skew which affects timing . To avoid this, we have to use predefined clock gating cells provides by library. I have used SAED90nm library in my thesis work. This integrated clock gating has various sequential elements and combinational elements which are specified in single SAED90nm library. Fig.7 shows an integrated clock-gating cell [11].

Fig.7- integrated clock gating cell

3.4 Benefits of Clock Gating

Dynamic power can be saved as with low clock rate. Due to this, internal power of registers is reduces. By using this method we can save area by excluding multiplexers. Clock gating is technology independent which provides gated clock to the digital circuits [15]. Power Compiler gives permission to perform clock gating with the reference of techniques as follows:

• Gated clock on unmapped registers (RTL based).

• Clock gating occurs if  register bank size get particular minimum number of  width constraints, then clock gating occurs

• Gated clock on previously mapped and upcoming unmapped in this process, clock gating given to the mapped IP cores. (Gate level).

• Power-driven gated clock insertion [15].


4. 1 Synopsys EDA Tools

Electronic design tools are designed by Synopsys to support the whole standard design flow. The following tools are used to achieve expected results:

 Design CompilerR: this tool is used for RTL synthesis, synthesis optimization.

 Design Complier has two sub-tool:

• FormalityR: It is an equivalence-checking (EC) tool that checks whether a design are functionally equivalent.

• Power CompilerTM: This tool contains following features:

1. power consumption optimization at the RTL and gate level

2. It enable concurrent area, power and timing

 IC Compiler: This tool provides features like

1. synthesis,

2. Low-power design, and

3. Design for manufacturability.

 Synopsys VCSR: this tool has following features :

1. Native test bench (NTB) support

2. Simulation engines

3. Constraint solver engines

4. Broad System Verilog support


1. Proposed d flip flop(simulation using IC compiler)

Fig.8- proposed d flip-flop

2. Output waveform of Proposed d flip flop(simulation using IC compiler)

Fig.9- Output waveform of Proposed d flip flop

(Simulation using IC compiler)

3. Synchronization module with clock gating (simulation using IC compiler)

Fig.10- Synchronizer with clock gating

4. Synchronization module with clock gating (simulation using IC compiler)


Fig.11- Output waveform of synchronizer


Theoretical results are taken from Synopsys design compiler as following:

• Report_ area: 2ff synchronizer (without clock gating)

•  Total area:  50.199565µm^2

• Report_power_analysis_Design:2ff_synchronizer(without clock gating

Internal power 656.6435 nW

Switching power 35.3279 nW

Total dynamic power 691.971 5nW

• Report_ area: 2ff synchronizer (with clock gating)

•  Total area 82 µm^2

• Report_power_analysis_Design:2ff_synchronizer(with clock gating)


Results for single flip-flop and three flip-flop synchronizer are taken from reference 2, 3, 4


In this work, the goals initially proposed were accomplished. The technique and all necessary requirements to implement it with great success, in the selected high-speed digital interface, were studied and understood. We have studied the architecture and operating modes of the interface as a way to predict the efficiency and clock gating coverage in every block and each mode.The process of automatic clock gating insertion using Design Compiler proved to be a well-defined and consistent process that can be implemented in any design without any previous caution, however, the results may not be what we have expected. Since the tool does not contain any process to qualify the clock gating implementation.


The other is thankful to the National Institute of Electronics and IT, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India for providing necessary facilities to carrying out this work.


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