Back to Results

< Previous   Next >

Most microelectronic chips used today--in systems ranging from cell phones to desktop computers to supercomputers--operate in basically the same way: they synchronize the operation of their millions of internal components using a clock that is distributed globally. This global clocking is becoming a critical design challenge in the quest for building chips that offer increasingly greater functionality, higher speed, and better energy efficiency. As an alternative, asynchronous or clockless design obviates the need for global synchronization; instead, components operate concurrently and synchronize locally only when necessary. This dissertation focuses on one class of asynchronous circuits: application specific stream processing systems (i.e. those that take in a stream of data items and produce a stream of processed results.) High-speed stream processors are a natural match for many high-end applications, including 3D graphics rendering, image and video processing, digital filters and DSPs, cryptography, and networking processors. This dissertation aims to make the design, analysis, optimization, and testing of circuits in the chosen domain both fast and efficient. Although much of the groundwork has already been laid by years of past work, my work identifies and addresses four critical missing pieces: i) fast performance analysis for estimating the throughput of a fine-grained pipelined system; ii) automated and versatile design space exploration; iii) a full suite of circuit level modules that connect together to implement a wide variety of system behaviors; and iv) testing and design for testability techniques that identify and target the types of errors found only in high-speed pipelined asynchronous systems. I demonstrate these techniques on a number of examples, ranging from simple applications that allow for easy comparison to hand-designed alternatives to more complex systems, such as a JPEG encoder. I also demonstrate these techniques through the design and test of a fully asynchronous GCD demonstration chip.