Radiation Hardened Mixed Signal IC Solutions

Satellite market expansion and new defense/aerospace technology are driving the need for more complex analog and mixed signal radiation hardened (RH) integrated circuits. RH FPGAs and microprocessors can satisfy many of the digital requirements, but analog must use either common-off-the-shelf (COTS) RH components or develop a custom solution (RH analog custom ASIC). RH analog ASICs are costly in development and qualification. The ideal solution would be the equivalent of the FPGA for analog—the field programable analog array (FPAA). At one time there were FPAAs, but the technology was burdened by significant overhead to achieve performance requirements and never became a mainstream production worthy solution.

Triad Semiconductor's Solution

Triad has investigated FPGA, FPAA and full-custom approaches to IC development and created a superior technology which resolves many of the issues. This technology is called via-configurable array (VCA) technology. The key aspect of a VCA is a complete custom analog/mixed-signal IC is configured with a single via-layer. This approach lowers cost and development time by as much as an order of magnitude.

Triad's VCAs Combine the Best of FPGAs, FPAAs and Custom

IC TechnologyFPGA
Field Programmable Gate Array
Field Programmable Analog Array
Traditional Custom IC
Via Configurable Array
Dev CostLowLowHighLow
Dev TimeFastFastSlowFast
PerformanceNo AnalogPoorExcellentExcellent
QualificationBy Platform
(Not by each design)
By Platform
(Not by each design)
Each Design
By Platform
(Not by each design)Table Data

VCAs ASIC Platforms

VCAs are constructed by building an array of tiles. The types of tiles vary by application requirement. Some of the tiles might be optimized for data conversion (ADCs/DACs). Some tiles could be optimized for power management functions. The resulting VCA ASIC platform can be used to implement a wide variety of unique custom ICs by simply creating a new via-layer.

Radiation Hardened by Design

Radiation Hardening by Design (RHBD) is a series of electrical and layout techniques that when properly applied can mitigate the effects of radiation.
Triad Semiconductor has incorporated these techniques into a Radiation-Hardend configurable IP (RH cIP) database to permit the fabrication of radiation hardened analog/mixed-signal VCA ASIC platforms using standard CMOS processes at commercial foundries.

These foundries typically manufacture several thousand wafers per month and have process controls in place to ensure minimal variation from die-to-die, wafer-to-wafer, and lot-to-lot. 

Alternatively, an integrated circuit can be radiation hardened by fabrication on a specialized process (e.g. SOI). However, these types of processes typically are more expensive to produce and do not run in high volume on a regular basis. Consequently, variation in electrical parameters are more difficult to maintain, which negatively effects yield, long-term reliability and cost.

RHV-1 Radiation Hardened VCA

Triad’s RHV-1 is a Radiation-Hardened-by-Design (RHBD) Via Configurable Array (VCA).

The RHV-1 is targeted at mixed-signal applications such as multi-channel data acquisition, sensor interfacing, and analog/digital signal processing. The RH Tiles within the RHV-1 provide the means to optimally balance performance and power.

RHV-1 Resources

  • Analog, fully-differential op-amp tiles optimized for low-noise on-chip analog signal processing
  • Voltage and current reference tiles including a DTMOS/bandgap voltage reference
  • Several reference circuit building blocks
  • Analog tiles optimized for ADCs and DACs
  • Analog, single-ended op-amp tiles optimized for driving off-chip resistive and capacitive loads
  • Logic array containing approximately 100,000 logic gates
  • LVDS I/O
  • 192 via-configurable I/O pads