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Addressing signal integrity issues in high-speed flash devices

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Signal integrity? flash devices?

Signal integrity will be more significant in next-generation flash devices, and several changes in the technology will make managing signal integrity more critical. For example, data rates in these devices will range from 400MHz to 6GHz. To support the faster data rates, edge rates will have to become 10 to 100 times faster. Demand for increased storage capacity will also drive the need for denser packaging and more complex interconnects.

Pressure to reduce costs will force you to make tradeoffs that affect signal integrity, such as using lower-cost materials or even eliminating the use of ground planes. As rise times become shorter, a signal's high-frequency components become more pronounced. Higher-frequency signals are more sensitive to interconnect quality, so signal-integrity problems tend to proliferate. As signal frequencies increase, signal loss also increases. Therefore, high-frequency components of fast-rise-time signals experience more loss than the low-frequency components, leading to signal distortion and intersymbol interference (ISI).

Signal-integrity problems
Understanding the causes of signal-integrity problems and their remedies is critical. Signal integrity problems include reflections and distortions, crosstalk, ground bounce, and jitter. Reflections and distortions relate to signal quality on an individual net. When a signal encounters an impedance discontinuity, it generates a reflection that becomes further distorted as it continues along the net. The reflection travels from the impedance discontinuity in two directionstoward the receiver and back to the driver. The reflections themselves react to other discontinuities, creating further reflections that distort the true signal in complex ways, generating effects such as ringing, overshoot, and slope reversal. Careful design to maintain well-controlled impedance along key traces is the best way to improve signal integrity.

Crosstalk-induced signal-integrity problems involve multiple signal nets. If you place an active net near a quiet one, capacitive and inductive coupling can cause some of the energy from the signal on the active net to couple over to the quiet side.

The quality of grounding and current-return paths in your design is among the biggest factors affecting crosstalk. In most printed-circuit-board (PCB) designs, ground planes are available as return paths. This approach is best if you can afford the extra plane. If cost pressure forces you to eliminate using a ground plane, you must use other strategies, such as placing a ground trace next to the signal or using differential instead of single-ended signaling.

Ground bounce also affects signal integrity and relates to power distribution. As with any network that has interconnects, inductance exists in power and ground networks. As the I/O signals transition from zero to one or one to zero, transient current flows in the power-distribution network. Many signals' switching at once generates large transient currents. Any inductance or resistance in the power- and ground-distribution network converts these transient currents into voltage spikes that appear as noise in other signals or even as a shift in the ground voltage. Ground planes or multiple ground or power connections reduce the impedance and therefore the simultaneous-switching-output (SSO) noise. Using lower voltage swings and protocols that minimize the number of signal transitions also helps.

Jitter issues also affect signal integrity. Reflections, crosstalk, and SSO all can contribute to jitter. In addition, ISI created on lossy channels, phase-locked-loop (PLL) noise, electromagnetic interference (EMI), differences in transmitting and receiving threshold voltages, and ordinary delay mismatches in internal logic can generate jitter. The strategy for managing jitter differs, depending on the cause of the jitter. Proper shielding can help with EMI-induced jitter, but it cannot fix a noisy power supply. Knowing whether the jitter is random, periodic, or correlated to some other event in the system helps you determine the best ways to address the problem.

Manage signal integrity
As every RF engineer knows, everything in a circuit can affect the signal. To manage signal integrity, it is critically important to first identify the parts of the design that affect signal integrity. A common approach is to start by creating a model of your design and its components and interconnects. However, a model typically is less accurate than it needs to be. You must make measurements of your circuits, compare them with your model, and adjust the model to make it consistent with your measurements. Once the model is accurate, you can use the simulator to predict which changes will improve signal integrity. Pay particular attention to vias, wire bonds, packages, PCB traces, and connectors when considering components that will affect signal integrity.

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