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LM347
MEng in VLSI Systems

 

 

Why MEng in VLSI Systems?

 

 

The MEng in VLSI Systems provides a comprehensive grounding in the theory of micro-electronic systems, as well as exposure to state of the art design techniques and toolsets. There is an emphasis on the testing of VLSI systems, both digital and analogue.

It will appeal to students with a science or engineering background who wish to change their career focus and move into the microelectronics industry.

 

 ECE VLSI Chip

 

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Career Opportunities 

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The Masters in VLSI Systems is designed to address the shortage of graduates skilled in both digital and analogue VLSI systems design. Graduates from the course are well placed to take up rewarding careers in the VLSI industry, including IC design, manufacturing and test, as well as research into future developments in the VLSI area.

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Programme of Study 

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The Master of Engineering in VLSI Systems is a one-year, full-time, taught postgraduate programme, worth 90 ECTS credits. It consists of ten taught modules and a major project that spans the year. Each taught module is worth 6 ECTS credits and the project has a weight of 30 ECTS credits. The course runs over three academic semesters, Autumn, Spring and Summer. Taught material is presented in the Autumn and Spring semesters, and the project is completed in the Summer semester. In each of the Autumn and Spring semesters, a student studies five modules, three of which are compulsory and two of which are "elective", that is, chosen from a selection of available modules.

 
     
Autumn Semester  Spring Semester Summer
Core Modules  Core Modules  
ASICS1,(Digital)  ASICS 2 (Analogue) Project
Test Engineering 1  Test Engineering 2  
Semiconductor Technology

 Noise in Circuits and Systems

 
Project  Project  
Elective Modules    
Digital Signal Processing  Digital Control  
Information Theory & Coding  Digital Communications  
Advanced Digital System Design  Advanced Topic Seminars  
     

Electives:

Modules shown in italics are elective. A selection of at least three electives from the sets shown is offered in each semester. Note that the majority of the elective modules are shared with the M.Eng in Computer and Communications Systems.

  

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Module Summary Descriptions

 

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ASICS 1

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Introduction to Design Methodology. Custom IC design. Standard cells. Programmable logic. Gate arrays. FPGAs. ASICs. VLSI Structures. CMOS, advanced CMOS, ROMs and RAMs. Introduction to UNIX. Manipulating files and directroies. Information processing. Printing. Using remote systems. Tailoring the envioromnent. Job control. Editors. Design entry and simulation. Schematic capture. Simulation. Verilog HDL. Module form general syntax. Data types. Constant assignment. Parameters. Arrays. Operators. Procedural statements. Using built-in functions in Verilog. Additional Verilog constructs. Two behavioural examples: gate level simulation, tri-state gates. Device layout and fabrication. The CMOS IC fabrication process. The CMOS innverter. Other CMOS Structures (in an n-well process).

 

 

Test Engineering 1

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In-coming inspection and test, supplier qualification. ATE product test at device, board, subsystem, and system level. In-circuit level testing of complex circuits. Functional level test of complex circuits. ATE programming. ATE fixtures. Probing. Product safety tests. Product verification, burn-in, expert verification system. Product reliability qualification systems. Calibration. Importance of design for testability.

 

 

Semiconductor Technology

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IC Technology: Concept of die size and design rules; General overview of MOS and Biplar technologies. Semiconductor Material: Crystal growth, defects and processing of silicon; alloying; epitaxial growth. Deposition: Atmospheric and low pressure chemical vapour depostition, polycrystalline and amorphous film deposition; evaporation; sputtering; properties of thin films: aluminium, refactory metals and silicides; Metalization; bonding; contacts; packaging. Oxidation: Kinetics of thermal oxidation, dry, wet, pyrogenic, HCI and TCE ambient properties of interface, LOCOS. Diffusion: P and N type impurities, Constant and limited source, annealing and diffusion in oxide; Gettering. Ion Implantation: process technique, trajectories. Lithography: Optical exposure and resist system, process characterization, mask making, wet and dry etching. Process Simulation: lithography, oxidation, diffusion, etching. Process Integration: Overview of Bipolar, NMOS, CMOS and BiCMOS technologies, threshold control, latch up prevention, parasitics; SOI and SOS technologies.

 

 

Project

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The course project enables students gain experience in undertaking a significant engineering task, which will involve research into a selected topic in the area of VLSI Systems, along with advanced design and implementation. The project commences in the Autumn semester of the Master's year and continues through to the Summer semester of that year.

 

 
ASICS 2

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Review of basic CMOS process. Basic electrical properties and SPICE modelling of MOS transistors. Circuit simulation and model complexity issues. Basic circuit concepts. Resistors and capacitors in CMOS. Sheet resistance Rs. Resistor structures. Area capacitances of layers. Wiring capacitances. Bipolar Junction Transistors and diodes. ESD protection structures. SPICE modelling of BJTs and diodes. Latch-up in circuits. The operational amplifier. Functional operation and modelling. Macro and transistor level models in SPICE. Op-amp design. Current mirrors, differential input stage, voltage and power amplifier stages. Single and dual-rail operation. Analogue IC layout design. MOS transistors, capacitors, resistors, interconnect. CAD tool and design issues. CIF output. The CMOS Inverter. Operation, modelling and simulation. Static CMOS logic cell design. Inverter delays. Propagation delays. Analog to digital converters. Successive approximation, flash and staircase ADC. Architectures and design. SPICE modelling and simulation. Digital to analog converters. Resistor string and weighted-current DAC. Architectures and design. SPICE modelling and simulation.

 

 

Test Engineering 2

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Relationship between reliability, maintainability and risk. Basic electronic system fault diagnosis. Fault diagnosis in circuits: analogue and digital. Component functional and parametric testing. VI curve testing for 'black box' circuits. Test techniques for complex digital IC's, e.g. boundary scan. Signature analysis, test vectors, pseudo-random test patterns etc. BIST techniques. Role of diagnostic programmes for self test. Review of some key test instruments.

  

 
Noise in Circuits and Systems

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Fundamental Noise: Noise mechanisms in electronic components.  Summation of noise signals, noise spectral density, noise summation in a band, noise bandwidth for common filters. Amplifier Noise: Representation of noise in amplifiers, equivalent input noise voltage and its equivalent input current and voltage sources.  Noise Figure. Semiconductor  Noise:  BJT noise model, noise in JFETS and MOSFETS.  Low Noise Amplifiers:  Design. Methods of noise and noise figure measurement. Man Made Noise:  European regulations, EMI emissions, EMI susceptability, conducted and radiated noise. Noise From PCBs: Track structures: strip line, microstrip and single sided board. Calculation of capacitive and inductive coupling between tracks as well as radiation from pcb tracks. Power Line Noise:  Noise on power supply lines and its minimisation. Power supply filters for minimisation of conducted noise, both common and differential mode. Shielding: Effectiveness as function of frequency, shield thickness, conductivity and permeability. Effectiveness to inductive and radiated fields.

 

 

Digital Signal Processing

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Discrete signals and systems. The DFT, its properties and applications; relationship to other transforms; Fourier, Laplace, Z-transform etc. Railings as theoretical samplers. Spectral descriptions of sequences. Analogue and digital convolution, the z-transform in the design of FIR digital filters. Linear-phase, allpass filters, minimum-phase filters. Differentiators and Integrators. Windowing techniques in filter design. Filter design and fast convolution by FFT. Frequency-sampling filters. IIR filters: mapping from analogue filters, bi-linear mapping, review of other mappings, their application in digital and sampled-data (e.g. switched-capacitor) filters. Up-sampling and down-sampling. Band-pass signals and modulation. Finite word-length effects; impact on architectures. Noise topics. Sigma-delta noise shaping, applications in A/D and D/A conversion. Correlation principles. Fast correlation by DFT. Introduction to adaptive filtering. Wiener filter. LMS algorithm. Selected applications. Power spectra and spectral estimation.

 

 

Information Theory & Coding

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Baseband digital communications: Line codes. Digital signal detection in Gaussian Noise. Decision theory. Optimum and matched filters. Intersymbol Interference. Eye diagrams. Calculating probability of error. M-ary baseband. Partial response signalling. Adaptive receivers and channel equalisation. Digital modulation systems: Coherent and non-coherent detection. Bandwidth efficiency and signal to noise ratio. M-ary PSK and hybrid systems. Signal space and constellation diagrams. Quadrature  partial response system. Other systems: MSK, GMSK etc. Multiple access, TDMA, FDMA and CDMA. Carrier Recovery, Clock Recovery. Bit and frame synchronisation, phase lock loops, early-late gate. Adaptive equalisation: Linear and Decision Feedback Equalisation, LMS and RLS. Information Theory. Entropy. Information rate. Shannon's Theorem, channel capacity: Bandwidth - S/N trade-off.  Fundamentals of information theory: source encoding theory and techniques. Communication channels: m-ary discrete memoryless, binary symmetric. Equivocation, mutual information, and channel capacity. Shannon-Hartley theorem. Channel coding: random and burst error protection on communication channels. Interleaving principles. Types and sources of error. Linear block coding. Standard Array and syndrome decoding. Cyclic and Convolution codes. Soft and hard decision detection. Viterbi decoding.

 

 

Advanced Digital System Design

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Review: High-speed design in the time and frequency domains; reflection, ringing and crosstalk, transmission lines. Transmission lines and termination strategies: Series, Thevenin, diode and AC terminations; Crosstalk, reflections, ground bounce. Properties and behaviour of stripline and microstrip traces. Technology review: LVDS, ECL/PECL, GTL, SSTL, HSTL, and high-speed CMOS drivers and receivers; mixed voltage systems; bus-hold and bus-loading considerations; hot insertion. Synchronous Design: Clock oscillators and buffering, Clock Distribution, Metastability. System Design and Manufacture: PCB materials; Layer build and specification; Power supply considerations; Decoupling techniques. EMC/ESD: Radiated vs conducted; Filtering; Effects of apertures, gasketing; Conducted emissions, coaxial cables, twisted pair; Shielding. Thermal Aspects: Sources of heat; Thermal resistance; Basic airflow models; Impact on reliability; Altitude Effects. Reliability: Bathtub curves; Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT). Models and Simulation: Spice and IBIS-based simulations. Fault-tolerance and redundancy: Fault-tolerant digital circuits. Architecture of fault-tolerant computers.

 

 

Digital Control

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Brief review of classical control system techniques covering stability analysis and design methods for both continuous and sampled data systems including Nyquist, Bode, root locus. Design criteria including gain and phase margin, settling and rise time, steady state and following error. Classical design techniques for, and implementation of, digital control systems; pole placement using state variable appraoch, direct design including deadbeat control, attenuation of ringing poles and multivariable design. Error mechanisms and sources including the algorithm, sampler, and word length. Issues having a significant impact on the practical implementation of digital controllers such as direct and canonical form for controller realisation, word length choice and processor hardware requirements. Development and testing; software structures; introduction to modern control techniques such as system identification, robust and optimal control.

 

 

Digital Communications

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Communication Theory: Nyquist Criteria, Shannon Sampling Theorem, Intersymbol interference and Aliasing. Digital Signal Processing for voice and data communication systems. Performance criteria, SNR and probability of error. Properties of line codes (Bipolar, manchester coding, HDBn, 4B3T etc). Modulation and Demodulation: bit error performance, bandwidth effieiency and signal to noise ratio. Advanced modulation schemes BMSK, II/4-OQPSK, Trellis Code Modulation. Multiple Access, TDMA, FDMA and CDMA. The Channel: AWGN, Linear Time Invariant (LTI) and Time varying. Synchronization: Carrier and clock recovery. Adaptive Equalization. Case study on a Spread Spectrum modem outlining the above principles is presented.

 

 

Advanced Topic Seminars

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This module will address topics of current interest in the VLSI and telecommunications industries as these arise. Suitable topics include, inter alia: Advanced architectures for mobile and 3rd generation telecommunications systems; Advanced topics in networking, such as VoIP, QoS, bandwidth provisioning and resource reservation; Radio Frequency VLSI design; Advances in semiconductor fabrication techniques.
 

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Entrance Requirements

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Normally a primary degree in a suitable discipline with first or second class honours and an interview may be part of the admission process.

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Fees

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The following links illustrate taught postgraduate tuition fees for EU Students and for Non-EU students. As this programme qualifies for a  scholarship for Non-EU students, please contact the International Education Division. (Email: int.ed@ul.ie) for further information.

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How to Apply

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Information on application forms may be obtained from and should be returned (with certified results/ relevant certificates of qualification) to:


Postgraduate Admissions
Graduate School
Foundation Building
University of Limerick
Limerick, Ireland
Tel.  +353-61-234377  or 233729
Fax. +353-61-233287
Email: postgradadmissions@ul.ie

 
 
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