Circuit Design and Configuration for Low Power FPGAs

Ayorinde, Oluseyi, Electrical Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Calhoun, Benton, Electrical Engineering, UVa

Today, society is moving towards a ubiquitous computing (UbiComp) environment, where sensors and other integrated circuits (ICs) are ever present in daily life, creating a smart environment for people to constantly monitor and react to their environments. For UbiComp to be fully realized, a host of requirements are necessary for the ICs deployed in this vast network. These requirements include low cost, low power consumption, flexibility, and adequate computation power.
Current IC design methodologies do not quite meet all UbiComp requirements. Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) are low power and have the necessary computing power for UbiComp applications, but they are prohibitively inflexible. Ultra-Low Power (ULP) General Purpose Processors (GPPs) have the necessary flexibility, but are prohibitively high power (by multiple orders of magnitude). Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are another IC implementation that could potentially be used for UbiComp applications, because they bridge the gap between the high efficiency of the ASIC and the high flexibility of the GPP. However, FPGAs have historically been targeted for high performance applications, where performance (or speed) is the main metric. As a result, commercial FPGAs are too power hungry for ULP applications (like UbiComp). Relatively little research has been done to bring reconfigurable logic into the ULP application space. However, if FPGAs can be retargeted for ULP applications, then they will intrinsically bridge that same gap, this time between ULP ASICs and ULP GPPs, by providing energy efficiency than ULP GPPs, but also have the flexibility to update or re-target their applications (a necessary requirement for UbiComp) without the expensive, time-consuming respins that ULP ASICs require.
This dissertation explores the steps necessary to both build and configure Ultra-Low Power FPGAs. These steps include:
1. developing a toolflow that will not only allow researchers to quickly co-optimize FPGA fabrics for different circuit and architectural parameters, but also users in the future to quickly be able to generate FPGA fabrics with the necessary configurations for a given benchmark circuit
2. re-assessing FPGA architectural parameters to determine architectures most suitable for ULP operation for FPGAs as opposed to high-performance operation
3. revisiting circuit design of FPGA-building blocks and re-designing them for low power operation
4. exploring the integration of the ULP FPGA fabric into a SoC designed for wireless sensing applications.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Issued Date: