Clock generation and distribution are essential to CMOS microchips, providing synchronization to external devices and between internal sequential logic. Clocks in microprocessors are highly vulnerable to single event effects and designing reliable energy efficient clock networks for mission critical applications is a major challenge. This dissertation studies the basics of radiation hardening, essentials of clock design and impact of particle strikes on clocks in detail and presents design techniques for hardening complete clock systems in digital ICs.
Since the sequential elements play a key role in deciding the robustness of any clocking strategy, hardened-by-design implementations of triple-mode redundant (TMR) pulse clocked latches and physical design methodologies for using TMR master-slave flip-flops in application specific ICs (ASICs) are proposed. A novel temporal pulse clocked latch design for low power radiation hardened applications is also proposed. Techniques for designing custom RHBD clock distribution networks (clock spines) and ASIC clock trees for a radiation hardened microprocessor using standard CAD tools are presented. A framework for analyzing the vulnerabilities of clock trees in general, and study the parameters that contribute the most to the tree’s failure, including impact on controlled latches is provided. This is then used to design an integrated temporally redundant clock tree and pulse clocked flip-flop based clocking scheme that is robust to single event transients (SETs) and single event upsets (SEUs). Subsequently, designing robust clock delay lines for use in double data rate (DDRx) memory applications is studied in detail. Several modules of the proposed radiation hardened all-digital delay locked loop are designed and studied. Many of the circuits proposed in this entire body of work have been implemented and tested on a standard low-power 90-nm process.