Built-in-self-test of RF front-end circuitry

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Title: Built-in-self-test of RF front-end circuitry
Author: Gopalan, Anand
Abstract: Fuelled by the ever increasing demand for wireless products and the advent of deep submicron CMOS, RF ICs have become fairly commonplace in the semiconductor market. This has given rise to a new breed of Systems-On-Chip (SOCs) with RF front-ends tightly integrated along with digital, analog and mixed signal circuitry. However, the reliability of the integrated RF front-end continues to be a matter of significant concern and considerable research. A major challenge to the reliability of RF ICs is the fact that their performance is also severely degraded by wide tolerances in on-chip passives and package parasitics, in addition to process related faults. Due to the absence of contact based testing solutions in embedded RF SOCs (because the very act of probing may affect the performance of the RF circuit), coupled with the presence of very few test access nodes, a Built In Self Test approach (BiST) may prove to be the most efficient test scheme. However due to the associated challenges, a comprehensive and low-overhead BiST methodology for on-chip testing of RF ICs has not yet been reported in literature. In the current work, an approach to RF self-test that has hitherto been unexplored both in literature and in the commercial arena is proposed. A sensitive current monitor has been used to extract variations in the supply current drawn by the circuit-under-test (CUT). These variations are then processed in time and frequency domain to develop signatures. The acquired signatures can then be mapped to specific behavioral anomalies and the locations of these anomalies. The CUT is first excited by simple test inputs that can be generated on-chip. The current monitor extracts the corresponding variations in the supply current of the CUT, thereby creating signatures that map to various performance metrics of the circuit. These signatures can then be post-processed by low overhead on-chip circuitry and converted into an accessible form. To be successful in the RF domain any BIST architecture must be minimally invasive, reliable, offer good fault coverage and present low real estate and power overheads. The current-based self-test approach successfully addresses all these concerns. The technique has been applied to RF Low Noise Amplifiers, Mixers and Voltage Controlled Oscillators. The circuitry and post-processing techniques have also been demonstrated in silicon (using the IBM 0.25 micron RF CMOS process). The entire self-test of the RF front-end can be accomplished with a total test time of approximately 30µs, which is several orders of magnitude better than existing commercial test schemes.
Record URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1850/942
Date: 2005-06-30

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