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How low can you go?

Will physical limitations put paid to higher analogue integration? By Philip Ling.

Things are a lot cleaner in the digital domain – or at least that's a generalisation that most go along with. The truth is, of course, that with each process migration there are more analogue artefacts to deal with in digital circuits. But because of its 'building block' nature, most of these issues can be ironed out and then largely forgotten. The same isn't necessarily true of analogue, where things are altogether a lot less well defined.

Despite this, state of the art analogue on a cmos process isn't as far behind its digital cousin as we may think. Paul Double, managing director of C, the UK representatives for Tanner EDA, a leading supplier of full custom analogue and mixed signal ic design tools, commented: "Right now analogue is routinely designed in 0.18um, with a few leaders in volume moving to 0.13um for applications such as mobile 'phones and Bluetooth."

Analog Devices' product line director for high speed converters, Dave Robertson, elaborated: "While lithography can be a very important factor in analogue performance, it is by no means the single dominant indicator of performance. As far as cmos processes go, 0.35 and 0.25um are still very heavily used for pure analogue and mixed signal applications, including a lot of the very large volume work. 0.18um is well in to the mainstream for analogue and mixed signal, while 0.13um and 90nm circuits are appearing with much greater frequency at the circuits conferences."

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Graham Pitcher

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