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3036 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON CIRCUITS AND SYSTEMS–I: REGULAR PAPERS, VOL. 64, NO.

12, DECEMBER 2017

Picowatt, 0.45–0.6 V Self-Biased Subthreshold


CMOS Voltage Reference
Arthur Campos de Oliveira , Student Member, IEEE, David Cordova, Student Member, IEEE,
Hamilton Klimach, Member, IEEE, and Sergio Bampi, Member, IEEE

Abstract— In this paper, a self-biased temperature- voltage reference (BGR). In the BGR, temperature com-
compensated CMOS voltage reference operating at picowatt-level pensation is achieved when the junction diode (usually
power consumption is presented. The core of the proposed implemented as a bipolar transistor) complementary-to-
circuit is the self-cascode MOSFET (SCM) and two variants
are explored: a self-biased SCM (SBSCM) and a self-biased absolute-temperature (CTAT) voltage behavior is counter-
NMOS (SBNMOS) voltage reference. Power consumption and balanced by a proportional-to-absolute-temperature (PTAT)
silicon area are remarkably reduced by combining subthreshold source, resulting in the silicon bandgap voltage as the reference
operation with a self-biased scheme. Trimming techniques for output, which is approximately 1.2 V. Although BJT based
both circuits are discussed aiming at the reduction of the BGR presents adequate performance for many applications,
process variations impact. The proposed circuits were fabricated
in a standard 0.18-µm CMOS process. Measurement results it cannot operate with power supplies lower than around 1.5 to
from 24 samples of the same batch show that both circuits 1.8 V, implying that supply voltage scaling of such BGRs
herein proposed can operate at 0.45/0.6 V minimum supply is impractical. Voltage dividers [7], [8] or Schottky barrier
voltage, consuming merely 55/184 pW at room temperature. diodes (SBD) [22] are an alternative strategy to realize lower
Temperature coefficient (TC) around 104/495 ppm/◦ C across a supply voltage references. Nonetheless, the minimum supply
temperature range from 0 to 120 ◦ C was measured. Employment
of a trimming scheme allows a reduction of the average TC to voltage and current remain constrained by BJT and SBD char-
72.4/11.6 ppm/◦ C for the same temperature range. Both variants acteristics. In contrast, MOSFET subthreshold operation [6]
of the proposed circuit achieve a line sensitivity of 0.15/0.11 %/V can offer an interesting alternative for both low power and
and a power supply rejection better than −44/−45 dB from low voltage operation.
10 to 10 kHz. In addition, SBSCM and SBNMOS prototypes Throughout the years, several MOSFET subthreshold solu-
occupy a silicon area of 0.002 and 0.0017 mm2 , respectively.
tions were proposed in order to improve the design of voltage
Index Terms— Subthreshold, voltage reference, self-biased, low
power, low voltage, picowatt.
references for both low power and low voltage opera-
tion [6]–[21]. In [9], the usage of transistors with different VT s
I. I NTRODUCTION in both weak and strong inversion allows complete suppression

T HE advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been a


technological booster for the research efforts towards
the design of low-power and low-voltage integrated circuits.
of mobility temperature dependence while consuming tens of
nanowatts operating below 1 V. A reference voltage based on
SCM with different VT s was presented in [10], however cur-
The main target of these designs are intra-body and portable rent source transistors operating in moderate inversion restrain
biomedical devices [1], [2], energy harvesting systems [3], and the minimum supply voltage. A temperature-compensated
energy-autonomous wireless sensors platforms [4], [5]. Since NMOS load in weak inversion was proposed in [11], which
such systems are very power constrained, their building blocks consumes less than 3 nW. Zhu et al. [15] proposed a bulk-
must also operate with very limited power. driven scheme that allows low voltage and low power oper-
One of the fundamental blocks for analog and mixed- ation even with transistors operating in moderate inversion.
signal applications is the voltage reference (VR). Its most A voltage reference based on the zero temperature coeffi-
common implementation strategy is the so-called bandgap cient (ZTC) point was proposed in [17], yet not only its mod-
erate inversion operation limits the minimum supply but also
Manuscript received April 3, 2017; revised June 26, 2017 and
August 20, 2017; accepted September 12, 2017. Date of publication Octo- low power operation results in larger silicon area. Although
ber 11, 2017; date of current version November 22, 2017. This work was presenting good performance for some applications, the works
supported in part by CAPES, and in part by CNPq. This paper was recom- described above require additional current references to bias
mended by Associate Editor D. Zito. (Corresponding author: Arthur Cam-
pos de Oliveira.) the voltage reference core, thus increasing area and total power
A. C. de Oliveira, H. Klimach, and S. Bampi are with the Microelectronics consumption. Here we refer to the aforementioned circuits as
Graduate Program, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre non-self-biased (Non-SB). Such circuits can consume units
91509-900, Brazil (e-mail: oliveira.arthurc@gmail.com; hamilton.klimach@
ufrgs.br; bampi@inf.ufrgs.br). to tens of nW whereas current leading-edge building blocks
D. Cordova is with the IMS Laboratory, Université de Bordeaux, 33405 for ultra-low power (ULP) applications, e.g. miniature sensing
Bordeaux, France (e-mail: dav.cordova@gmail.com). systems, require reduction to the pW level range.
Color versions of one or more of the figures in this paper are available
online at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org. Just a few voltage references operating at such pW con-
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TCSI.2017.2754644 sumption levels have been proposed in the literature so
1549-8328 © 2017 IEEE. Personal use is permitted, but republication/redistribution requires IEEE permission.
See http://www.ieee.org/publications_standards/publications/rights/index.html for more information.
DE OLIVEIRA et al.: PICOWATT, 0.45–0.6 V SELF-BIASED SUBTHRESHOLD CMOS VOLTAGE REFERENCE 3037

a transistor model appropriate for the weak inversion region


must be used. According to the Unified Current Control
Model (UICM) [23], the drain current of a MOSFET can
be described as the superposition of a forward (I F ) and a
reverse (I R ) current components
I D = I F − I R = I S (i f − i r ) (1)
where I S = I S Q S, S is the transistor aspect ratio W/L and
W and L are the channel width and length, respectively.
The inversion coefficients i f and i r are the forward and
φ2
 n t is the sheet
reverse normalized currents; I S Q = μCox 2
normalization current, which is process related, μ represents
Fig. 1. Simplified scheme of the voltage reference variants. the carrier mobility, n the subthreshold slope factor, Cox  is

the gate capacitance per unit area, and φt = kT /q the thermal


voltage. The relationship between the normalized currents and
far [12]–[14], [18]–[21], but these circuits do not offer a well voltages is given by
defined current to bias the voltage reference main core since
VG − VT − nVS(D)   
they are biased with the leakage current of a native MOS [12], = 1 + i f (r) − 2 + ln 1 + i f (r) − 1
[14], [18], [20], of a standard NMOS [13], [19] or of a PMOS nφt
transistor [14]. Even though leakage based strategy provides (2)
a solution for pW voltage reference biasing, the current gen- where VG , VS and V D are the gate, source and drain voltages
erated by these structures cannot be simultaneously mirrored referenced to the bulk terminal, and VT is the threshold
through PMOS and NMOS branches for subsequent blocks. voltage.
In this work, we explore the usage of a self-biasing scheme From expressions (1) and (2), the drain current of a long
to further reduce power consumption of subthreshold voltage channel NMOS transistor operating in WI (i f 1) is given by
references further providing an alternative for biasing sub-      
VG − VT −VS −V D
sequent blocks. Two self-biased variants are presented. The I D = 2eI S exp exp − exp
first one is a self-biased self-cascode MOSFET (SBSCM) nφt φt φt
and the second one is a temperature-compensated self-biased (3)
NMOS (SBNMOS) active load in weak inversion. Results in which, for V D ≥ 3 ∼ 4φt the drain current becomes
show that, by employing the proposed approach, power con- almost independent of the drain voltage expressed inside the
sumption and silicon area can be remarkably reduced when brackets in (3). Such current saturation at low drain-to-source
compared to non-self-biased solutions, while staying among voltages is observed in long channel MOSFETs, in which
the best low power all-CMOS voltage references in the the drain-induced barrier lowering effect (which affects the
literature. short-channel VT by raising the drain voltage) is negligible.
This paper is organized as follows: Section II presents the
operation principle of the proposed circuit and its variants; B. Self-Biased Self-Cascode Voltage Reference - SBSCM
Section III discusses the key design considerations of the pro-
As Fig. 1(a) shows, VREF1 is generated through the self-
posed structure; Section IV reports the prototype measurement
cascode MOSFET (SCM) connection of M2 and M3 which
results; compensation after fabrication process is presented
have the same gate-to-bulk voltage. The SCM, in turn,
in Section V; Section VI compares the obtained results of
is biased by two current branches that allow independent con-
the proposed circuits with other voltage references published.
trol of the inversion coefficient of M2 and M3 . The generation
Finally, the paper conclusions are drawn in Section VII.
of a voltage reference through the SCM is a good choice for
low power since it can operate at very low current levels.
II. O PERATION P RINCIPLE Usually, the bottom transistor of the self-cascode (M2 )
The simplified circuit schematics of both proposed voltage is considered to be in triode. However, since the value of
references are shown Fig 1. In both cases, the SCM [6] VREF1 (V D2) is expected to be much greater than 4φt , M2 is
is composed of transistors with different threshold voltages: considered to be saturated in both cases of Fig. 1. The
M2 is a high-VT transistor (3.3 V) and M3 is the standard drain currents in Fig. 1(a) can be estimated through (1)-(2).
one (1.8 V). The threshold voltage values specifically used in Supposing that M2 and M3 are saturated (i r2,3 = 0), both
this paper are derived from the target process herein used for operate in WI (i f 2,3  1) and, with all voltages referenced to
IC prototyping, but the design principle itself is applicable to their bulk terminals, which are connected to ground, they can
other CMOS processes as well. be written as
 
VG2 − VT 2
I D2 = 2eI S2 exp (4)
A. Unified Current Control Model n 2 φt
 
Since the circuit under study is based on subthreshold VG3 − VT 3 VREF1
I D3 = 2eI S3 exp − (5)
MOSFET operation aiming for low power consumption, n 3 φt φt
3038 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON CIRCUITS AND SYSTEMS–I: REGULAR PAPERS, VOL. 64, NO. 12, DECEMBER 2017

By replacing (7) in (6), and defining ε = 1 − nn21−n 3


n3 ,
the SBSCM generated voltage reference is now given by
n 3 n 2 −n 3

VT 2 − VT 3 φt (K 1 + K 2 )n2 I S3 I S1
VREF1 = + ln n2 n3
n3ε n3ε I S2 K1
 
n3 − n2
+ VT 1 (8)
n1n3ε
The threshold voltage has an approximately linear negative
dependence on temperature that can be expressed as [24]

VT (T ) = VT (T0 ) − αT (T − T0 ) (9)
Fig. 2. Schematic of the proposed voltage references. (a) SBSCM.
(b) SBNMOS. where VT (T0 ) is the threshold voltage at room temperature and
αT is the first derivative of the threshold voltage with respect
to temperature.
Since I D2 = (K 1 + K 2 )I , I D3 = K 1 I and VG2 = VG3 , Replacing (9) in (8) and setting REF1
∂V
= 0, the optimal
∂T
the voltage reference of Fig. 1(a) is given by ratio between aspect rations S3 and S2 of M3 and M2 ,
 n3 
VT 2 − VT 3 φt I (K 1 + K 2 )n2 respectively, can be expressed as
VREF1 = + ln S3 n2 n3
n3 n3  n3 
I S2 K 1
  S3 K 1n3 I SnQ2
2

n2 − n3 I = n 2 −n 3
+ φt ln (6) S2n2 OPT I SnQ3
3
(K 1 + K 2 )n2 I S1
n3 2e   
q n 1 (αT 2 − αT 3 ) − (n 2 − n 3 )αT 1
Therefore, the SCM of Fig. 1(a) provides an output voltage × exp
k n1
reference that is mainly defined by the difference between the
(10)
threshold voltages of the 3.3 V and 1.8 V transistors, as shown
in (6). The second component in (6) is PTAT and depends on From expressions (8)-(10) the temperature compensated
geometric and process parameters only. Additionally, it can voltage reference is given by
also be seen that a last PTAT component is added which  
depends on the bias current (I ) and results from the difference VT 2 (T0 ) − VT 3 (T0 ) n3 − n2
VREF1 = + VT 1 (T0 )
of subthreshold slope factors (n) of the transistors M2 and M3 , n3ε n1n3ε
 
which have different threshold voltages. n 1 (αT 2 − αT 3 ) − (n 2 − n 3 )αT 1
+ T0 (11)
For the SCM to operate with a current as low as possible, n1n3ε
the bias current I is derived from the SCM output voltage itself
through a feedback path, as in the current reference proposed As shown by (11) the proposed SBSCM provides at its
in [11]. Hence, our voltage reference circuit herein proposed is output a reference that is mainly defined by the difference
called a self-biased self-cascode MOSFET (SBSCM) voltage between threshold of the 3.3 V and the 1.8 V transistors, since
reference. the αT term is negligible at room temperature.
The schematic of the proposed SBSCM voltage reference
is shown in Fig. 2(a) where M2 and M3 compose the SCM, C. Self-Biased NMOS Load Voltage Reference - SBNMOS
and M1 defines the current reference I D1 . The SBSCM uses
With the expression of the SBSCM at hand, the analysis of
a high-VT transistor for M1 (for which the nominal supply
the SBNMOS output (VREF2 ) can be simplified. As Fig. 1(b)
can be as high as 3.3V), since the target is a sub-nA bias
shows, the NMOS load voltage VREF2 is simply voltage VG2 ,
current. The PMOS transistors form the current mirror and
which is
define the current ratios K 1 = S5 /S4 and K 2 = S6 /S4 .  
Additionally, paths K 1 and K 2 provide an alternative way for a I D2
VREF2 = VT 2 + n 2 φt ln (12)
trimming scheme to compensate TC for fabrication variations, 2eI S2
as it will be presented further in section V. The Mc transistor
The temperature behavior of (12) can be compensated since
implements a cascode current source that can be used to
its first term is CTAT and its second, PTAT.
improve the line sensitivity (LS) at the cost of increasing the
Fig. 2(b) presents the complete circuit where all transistor
minimum supply voltage, making its usage conditional on the
operate in WI. Besides, M1 , which is a 3.3 V transistor, defines
target performance. In the fabricated version of the SBSCM,
the bias current, M4 acts as a cascode to shield M1 from supply
the core generated current is simply the drain current of M1
voltage variations, and transistors M5 and M6 act as a current
without the use of Mc .
mirror thus defining K 1 = S6 /S5 . The necessity of using the
The core generated current of the proposed circuit is simply
cascode transistor M4 arises from the fact that the LS of VREF2
the drain current of M1
  is directly dependent on the LS of the current source.
VREF1 − VT 1 From the circuit of Fig. 2(b), through expressions (4)-(12),
I D1 = 2eI S1 exp (7)
n 1 φt considering V D2 = VREF1 with K 2 = 0, and knowing that
DE OLIVEIRA et al.: PICOWATT, 0.45–0.6 V SELF-BIASED SUBTHRESHOLD CMOS VOLTAGE REFERENCE 3039

I D2 = K 1 I D1 , VG2 = VG3 = VREF2 , β = nn1 n2 3 and γ = that the decrease of the bias current I D1 depends on the reduc-
n 2 + β(n 2 − n 3 ), the resulting output voltage is given by tion of both S1 and V D2 , which can be reduced by increasing
⎛ n2 ⎞ S2 while reducing S3 . Yet this strategy is not practical since the
γ γ
K 1 I S1 I S3 n1 S2 ratio for optimal temperature compensation defined by (14)
VREF2 = VT 2 (β +1)−β(VT 3 +n 3 εVT 1 )+φt ln⎝ ⎠
I S2 n2 (β+1) implies that S2 must also be reduced for a S1,3 reduction.
Thus, for a small S1 ratio, S3 ratio must increase to reduce the
(13) current consumption while keeping a reasonable temperature
Considering the linear approximation of VT presented by (9) coefficient.
and replacing it into (13), and again setting ∂ V∂T
REF2
= 0,
the optimal S2 ratio for temperature compensation can be B. Minimum Supply Voltage
expressed by Proper operation of the proposed circuits under the assump-
γ 1 tions made in the previous sections requires the definition of
(K 1 I S1 ) n 2 (β+1) I S3 n 1 (β+1)
a minimum supply voltage. This value is set to the minimum
S2OPT =
I S Q2 voltage needed to make both circuits as independent as pos-
  
q αT 2 (β + 1) − β(αT 3 + n 3 εαT 1 ) −1 sible of V D D variations. In order to satisfy this condition,
× exp the saturation condition must be guaranteed. In the subthresh-
k n 2 (β + 1)
(14) old region, the current of a MOS saturates when its drain-to-
source voltage is greater than 3 to 4 times the thermal voltage,
Thus, by satisfying (14), the temperature compensated i.e., V D S ≥ 3 ∼ 4φt . Hence, in SBSCM without Mc , we have
VREF2 is now expressed as 8φt + 250 mV 4φt + 250 mV
     
VREF2 = VT 2 (T0 )(β + 1) − β [VT 3 (T0 ) + n 3 εVT 1 (T0 )] V D D1MIN = max{V D S5 + V D S3 + VREF1 , V D S6 + VREF1 }
+ T0 [α2 (β + 1) + β(α3 + n 3 εα1 )] (15) (17)

Since the generated current (I D1) also depends on M2 , Considering that the drain-to-source voltage (V D S ) of all
the output reference voltage is expected to depend to depend transistors must be at least 4φt and that from (8) the roughly
on its threshold voltage VT 2 by a factor higher than 1 expected voltage reference value is around 250 mV, the result-
(i.e. β + 1), as represented in the first term of (15). Thus, ing minimum supply voltage will be around 450 mV according
the proposed circuit provides a reference voltage that depends to (17). This value can be further reduced by using devices
on threshold voltages of M1 , M2 and M3 , being VT 2 the major M2 and M3 with closer VT values, thus reducing VREF1 .
contributor. From (13), the expected value for the SBNMOS voltage
It is important to notice that, for expressions (10) and (14), reference is around 390 mV. Estimating the minimum V D D
if μ1 ≈  μ2 ≈ μ3 ≈ μ is assumed, temperature dependent
supply as done previously, the minimum for the SBNMOS
φt2 would be simply VREF2 + 4φt . From measurement results,
terms μ 2 of the specific currents (I S Q ) cancel each the observed minimum supply voltage was 0.6 V. This is
other. For this reason, the I S Q temperature dependency is not because VREF2 depends directly on the minimum supply volt-
considered in this analysis. age to drive V D2 high enough to create the bias current I D1 .
Therefore, the minimum supply voltage for the SBNMOS
III. D ESIGN C ONSIDERATIONS will have an additional of 4φt to the value expected by only
considering the voltage drop paths.
A. Current Consumption Minimization
As depicted in Fig. 2(a) the total current consumed by the C. Supply Voltage Sensitivity
SBSCM circuit is given by
The sensitivity of a reference voltage with respect to supply
IDD1 = I D1 (1 + K 1 + K 2 ) (16) voltage variations is commonly evaluated through the line
sensitivity (LS) parameter. The LS is defined as
Since the ratios S3 and S2 set a fixed temperature com-
VREF
pensated reference voltage, and its value is applied to the LS = × 100% (18)
gate of M1 , the generated current will be defined only by the V D D × VREFµ
ratio S1 . Therefore, the current consumption can be minimized in which V D D is the V D D range of operation, VREF
by setting S1 to the smallest possible ratio (WMIN /LMAX ), (VREFMAX − VREFMIN ) is the absolute difference of the ref-
at the cost of temperature coefficient degradation, and also by erence voltage in the V D D range considered and VREFµ is the
reducing K 1 and K 2 current gains. To further reduce ID1 the mean value of the voltage reference for the V D D range. The
third branch can be eliminated (K 2 = 0) and thus temperature optimization of the LS lies on the minimization of VREF .
compensation can be made by increasing S3 /S2 . In this case, Therefore, for both circuits of Fig. 2 this can be done by
the trade-off between power consumption and M2,3 area will reducing currents gains K 1 and K 2 (the last one only for the
depend on the threshold voltage temperature slope (αT ). SBSCM).
The total current consumption of the SBNMOS circuit The line sensitivity of SBSCM can be substantially
(Fig. 2(b)) is simply (16) with K 2 = 0. It is straightforward reduced (around 10× or more) by adding the transistor Mc at
3040 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON CIRCUITS AND SYSTEMS–I: REGULAR PAPERS, VOL. 64, NO. 12, DECEMBER 2017

Fig. 3. Comparison of the simulated TC supply voltage dependence with


and without Mc transistor. Fig. 4. Simulated transistors sizing for optimal TC.

TABLE I
T RANSISTORS S IZING FOR SBSCM AND SBNMOS

the cost of increasing the minimum supply voltage from 0.45 V


to 0.6 V. Mc acts as a cascode device with an output impedance
much larger than that of M1 . Accordingly, Mc shields M1
from supply voltage variations, thus improving the LS. The
simulation results of the TC sensitivity with respect to V D D
for the SBSCM with and without Mc are shown in Fig. 3. Fig. 5. Chip photo of the proposed voltage references and their layouts.
Typical simulations of the SBSCM without Mc present a TC
of 7 ppm/◦C at minimum supply voltage (0.45 V) while the validates the proposed approach. Taking into account the pre-
maximum TC is less than 70 ppm/◦C at 3.3 V. The addition of vious considerations as well as layout regularity, the proposed
Mc results in a TC lower than 10 ppm/◦C for all voltage supply circuits were sized as presented in Table I.
range at the cost of increasing the minimum V D D to 0.6 V.
The channel length modulation was neglected in this IV. M EASUREMENT R ESULTS
circuit design since this effect is not relevant for MOS
The proposed CMOS voltage references were fabricated
transistors operating in subthreshold, where drain output
in a standard 0.18-μm CMOS process. The chip photo and
impedance depends mainly on drain-induced barrier lowering
the layout of the proposed circuits are shown in Fig. 5. The
effect (DIBL). DIBL is significantly reduced by increasing
total occupied areas are 0.0020 mm2 and 0.0017 mm2 for
the channel length, therefore the high impedance transis-
the SBSCM and SBNMOS, respectively. Measurements were
tors (SBSCM: M1 , M5 and M6 ; SBNMOS: M1 , M4 and M6 )
performed using a Keysight 4156C Semiconductor Parameter
were designed with large L to minimize the LS of the proposed
Analyzer for DC biasing and voltage/current measurement.
circuits.
A thermal chamber was used for temperature control. Power
Supply Rejection (PSR) was measured using a Keysight
D. Sizing for Optimal Temperature Compensation B2961A Low Noise Power Source and a Keysight MSO9104A
Fig. 4 represents the simulated TC as function of transistor scope. A total of 24 chips from the same batch were packaged
ratios for both SBSCM and SBNMOS. The simulation was in ceramic [25] and measured.
performed by properly sizing all other transistors besides M2 Fig. 6(a) shows the measured results of the supply volt-
and varying its W/L ratio. age dependence for average samples of both proposed cir-
The calculated optimum ratios of (S3n3 /S2n2 ) (for SBSCM) cuits at 20 ◦ C. As reported, the SBSCM starts to operate
and S2 (for SBNMOS) are 1.34 and 1.78 respectively, as pre- at 0.45 V supply, while the SBNMOS at 0.6 V supply.
dicted by (10) and (14). As can be seen in Fig. 4 the simulated The average measured line sensitivity (LS) from V D DMIN to
optimal ratios of the same parameters are 1.4 and 1.92 respec- 3.3 V was 0.15 %/V (SBSCM - Fig. 6(b)) and 0.11 %/V
tively. The proximity between calculated and simulated values (SBNMOS - Fig. 6(c)).
DE OLIVEIRA et al.: PICOWATT, 0.45–0.6 V SELF-BIASED SUBTHRESHOLD CMOS VOLTAGE REFERENCE 3041

Fig. 6. Measured V RE F supply voltage dependence. (a) VREF × V D D .


(b) VSBSCM [0.45-3.3 V]. (c) VSBNMOS [0.6-3.3 V].

Fig. 8. Average measured and typical simulated temperature behavior


showing the ±3σ range. (a) SBSCM. (b) SBNMOS.

the VREF variation coefficient (σ/μ - where σ and μ are the


standard deviation and mean value) are 0.63 % and 0.8 %,
respectively.
The simulated and measured temperature sensitivity from
0 ◦ C to 120 ◦ C for both circuits are shown in Fig. 8. The
temperature coefficient (TC) is evaluated using the following
expression:
VREFMAX − VREFMIN
TC = × 106 (19)
(TMAX − TMIN )VREF27 ◦ C
A TC between 68 ppm/◦C and 150 ppm/◦C, with a mean
of 104 ppm/◦ C was measured from the 24 samples in the case
of the SBSCM, as shown in Fig. 8(a), while for the SBNMOS
the mean measured TC was 495 ppm/◦C. The simulated worst
case TCs at minimum supply voltage across all corners were
65 ppm/◦ C and 136 ppm/◦ C for the SBSCM and SBNMOS,
respectively. The difference between simulated and measured
behaviors may be partially caused by the inaccuracy of the
BSIM3v3.2 model for the temperature behavior in deep weak
inversion [26].
Fig. 7. Distribution of VREF of the 24 samples @ 20 ◦ C and V D D M I N .
Fig. 9 shows the measured temperature behavior of the
(a) SBSCM. (b) SBNMOS. power consumption for different values of V D D for both
circuits. Since they are biased with the subthreshold current,
The spread of VREF across the 24 measured samples of both the power consumption of the references increases expo-
circuits at 20 ◦ C and minimum supply voltage are presented nentially with temperature. The SBSCM consumes typically
in Fig. 7. The VREF mean reference voltages for the SBSCM 54.8 pW at 0.45 V and 27 ◦ C and reaches a maximum
and SBNMOS are 225.3 mV and 378 mV, respectively, and of 8.6 nW at 3.3 V and 120 ◦ C as shown in Fig. 9(a).
3042 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON CIRCUITS AND SYSTEMS–I: REGULAR PAPERS, VOL. 64, NO. 12, DECEMBER 2017

Fig. 10. Measured PSR for both proposed circuits @ V D D MIN .

V. T RIMMING A NALYSIS
It is well known that sensitivity to process variations of
circuits with transistors in subthreshold increases dramatically.
Due to the exponential I-V characteristics of MOS transistor in
weak inversion, any small variation in threshold voltage causes
an exponential change in drain current. Voltage references
operating at such region are very much process dependent
and present a large spread of both output reference voltage
and TC [7], [11], [12]. These variations can be compensated
through trimming techniques. From expressions (8) and (13),
process variations of the generated reference voltages can be
Fig. 9. Measured temperature dependence of the power consumption compensated by either increasing or decreasing the current
for different values of supply voltage. (a) Power consumtion of SBSCM. gains K 1 and K 2 through a digital control.
(b) Power consumtion of SBNMOS.
From the corner simulations presented in Fig. 12, the
SBSCM and SBNMOS are expected to have a VREF at room
The SBNMOS measured typical (0.6 V and 27 ◦ C) and temperature of approximately ±6% and ±8%, respectively.
maximum (3.3 V and 120 ◦ C) power consumption are 184 pW As presented in [27], the number of bits of the trimming circuit
and 24.2 nW, respectively, as reported in Fig. 9(b). Simulated is determined by the following expression
results of typical and maximum power consumption were  
93 pW and 12.5 nW, respectively, for the SBSCM, while for ln VVLFSSB + 1
the SBNMOS they were of 350 pW and 41.6 nW. Some dis- BITS ≥ (20)
ln(2)
crepancy between measured and simulated power consumption
is expected for both circuits. The SBSCM measured output where VL S B is the least significant bit voltage and VF S is the
voltage was around 25 mV less than that from simulation, full-scale voltage.
which means that its consumption was also smaller than that The trimming circuit must be designed to cover the entire
predicted by simulations. The measured SBNMOS output output voltage variation range while a reasonable VL S B must
voltage presented a CTAT behavior, indicating that the circuit be chosen in order to reduce the spread of VREF , compen-
is not biased with sufficient current to compensate the NMOS sating the output voltage for a target TC [12]. Therefore,
active load temperature dependence, thus reducing the power the trimming circuit is designed to cover the maximum range
consumption. at room temperature while having a small VL S B for fine TC
Fig. 10 presents the measured PSR for both circuits at compensation. Thus, for SBSCM, choosing VF S = 6%VREF1
minimum supply voltage and 100 Hz resulting −44 dB for and VL S B = 0.25%VREF1 lead to a 5-bit trimming circuit.
the SBSCM and −47 dB for the SBNMOS. Worst case PSR The SBNMOS can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing
from 10 Hz to 10 kHz are −44.5 dB (SBSCM) and −45 dB the current gain K 1 , which is equivalent to adding or sinking
(SBNMOS). PSR measurements were done with a high input current at the reference voltage node. This can be achieved by
impedance buffer presenting a total input capacitance of using a current-trimming technique [15], where the trimming
about 4 pF. circuit can cover all the variation of the output voltage at room
Measured start-up time for V D D from 0 V to 3.3 V was temperature. Defining VF S = 8%VREF2 and using the same
92 ms and 32 ms, for the SBSCM and SBNMOS, respectively. 5 bits as for the SBSCM, lead to VL S B = 0.3%VREF2 . The
This time increases by 10× when the voltage supply goes from schematic of the 5-bit trimming circuit of the proposed voltage
0 V to V D DMIN . references is shown in Fig. 11.
DE OLIVEIRA et al.: PICOWATT, 0.45–0.6 V SELF-BIASED SUBTHRESHOLD CMOS VOLTAGE REFERENCE 3043

Fig. 11. 5-bit trimming scheme for the proposed circuits. (a) SBSCM. (b) SBNMOS.

Fig. 13. Measured temperature dependence of VREF for five samples after
trimming emulation. (a) SBSCM. (b) SBNMOS.
Fig. 12. Simulated 5-bit trimming range for the proposed circuits.
(a) SBSCM. (b) SBNMOS.
Even though the trimming circuits were not fabricated due
to silicon access restrictions, they can be emulated with the
The simulation of the trimming circuit, as well as the assistance of the measurement equipment, since each DC chan-
variation of the output voltage with process corners, is shown nel of Keysight-4156 can perform a precision programmable
in Fig. 12. For both circuits, the increase/decrease of the cur- current source at the same time it measures the node VREF .
rent gain is defined by the control bits B[4:0], where B[4] is a This emulation can be made by increasing or decreasing the
sign bit that determines the direction of the resulting trim to the current at the voltage reference node through the following
output voltage, and B[3:0] are the binary codes proportionally process: 1) By processing the measured data of a given sample
controlling the current mirror gains [16]. As clearly shown by through a mathematical software, an optimal temperature-
Figures 12(a) and 12(b), the proposed trimming circuits can compensated VREFOPT is obtained; 2) Experimentally, at 27 ◦ C
cover all process variations. a current (IT ) is sunk or applied to the reference node of
3044 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON CIRCUITS AND SYSTEMS–I: REGULAR PAPERS, VOL. 64, NO. 12, DECEMBER 2017

TABLE II
C OMPARISON W ITH P UBLISHED L OW P OWER CMOS V OLTAGE R EFERENCES

Fig. 14. FoM comparison between the proposed circuits and prior works with respect to (a) power and (b) silicon area.

the processed sample in order to achieve the same value as previous sections, meaning that the performance comparison
VREFOPT in this temperature; 3) The generated currents of among different circuit designs and approaches is a complex
the proposed circuits increase exponentially with temperature, task. For this reason a Figure of Merit (FoM) can be defined
hence the applied/sunk IT trimming current must follow this to provide a comparative number that represents the overall
behavior. Using the obtained IT from the previous step as performance of a given design.
starting point, the current that must be applied to the other A FoM that considers the main performance parameters of a
temperature points is achieved by approximating it with a voltage reference, such as temperature range, TC, power, and
function that increases exponentially. silicon area, can be expressed as [28]
The measured results after the trimming emulation, (TMAX − TMIN )2
as explained before, for five randomly selected samples at FoM = (21)
TC × Power × Area
minimum supply voltage are shown in Fig. 13. The measured
TCs with trimming emulation for the 5 samples of the SBSCM First-order compensated voltage references usually present
were 34, 60.7, 75.4, 100 and 93 ppm/◦ C, while for the a parabola-like curve across temperature, meaning that as the
SBNMOS they were 13.2, 16, 7.25, 9 and 12.7 ppm/◦C. temperature goes far from the reference point, typically room
The TCs for the SBNMOS were expected to be lower when temperature, the output reference voltage temperature sensitiv-
comparing to those from the SBSCM since the latter circuit ity increases. Therefore, the temperature range (TMAX − TMIN )
presented a more defined CTAT behavior. The TC and power is squared in the FoM expression proposed, benefit designs
consumption were 72.4 ppm/◦C and 147 pW for the SBSCM, where a wider temperature range is covered. The product
and 11.6 ppm/◦C and 664 pW for the SBNMOS. Since between TC, power at room temperature and silicon area must
the trimming circuits were not included in the fabricated be as low as possible, meaning that resistorless solutions are
references due to silicon access restrictions, the presented emu- benefited since integrated resistors tend to occupy large areas
lation approach can help validate the process compensation when designed for low currents.
trimming scheme that was proposed. Table II and Fig. 14 summarize the performance of the
SBSCM and the SBNMOS in comparison with published
low power CMOS voltage references. When compared with
VI. C OMPARISON W ITH P UBLISHED W ORKS the non-self-biased works (Non-SB), the proposed circuits
The performance of a voltage reference circuit is quan- presented a 47.5× and 7.75× of power and area improve-
tified by many specification parameters as presented in the ment, respectively, while having the best FoM performance.
DE OLIVEIRA et al.: PICOWATT, 0.45–0.6 V SELF-BIASED SUBTHRESHOLD CMOS VOLTAGE REFERENCE 3045

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3046 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON CIRCUITS AND SYSTEMS–I: REGULAR PAPERS, VOL. 64, NO. 12, DECEMBER 2017

David Cordova (S’12) received the B.Sc. degree in Sergio Bampi (M’86) received the B.Sc. degree in
electronics engineering from the Pontifical Catholic electronics and the B.Sc. degree in physics from the
University of Peru, Lima, Peru, in 2007, and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS),
M.Sc. degree in microelectronics from the Federal in 1979, and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in elec-
University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, trical engineering from Stanford University, USA,
Brazil, in 2014. He is currently pursuing the Ph.D. in 1986.
degree with the Conception Group on IMS and He joined the UFRGS Microelectronics Group,
Université de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, where Informatics Institute, in 1986, where he is currently
he involves in frequency generator circuits toward a Full Professor. He has been the Ph.D. advisor and
5G. He completed the IC-Brazil program with RFIC the Principal Investigator in the Microelectronics and
design specialization with the IC Brazil Training Computer Science Programs at UFRGS since 1988.
Center 1, Porto Alegre, in 2010. From 2009 to 2010, he was a Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Circuits and
His research interests include analog and RF IC design in CMOS Systems Society, involved as the Technical Director of the Microelectronics
technologies. Center CEITEC from 2005 to 2008. He is the past President of the FAPERGS
Mr. Cordova is a Student Member of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society Research Funding Foundation. He was a Visiting Research Professor with
and the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society Stanford University from 1998 to 1999, and the Director of the National
Supercomputer Center from 1993 to 1996.
His research interests include IC design and modeling, mixed signal and
Hamilton Klimach (S’03–M’09) received the RF CMOS circuits design, architectures, and SoCs for image and video
B.Eng. and M.Sc. degrees in electrical engineer- processing, nano-CMOS devices, ultralow power digital CMOS design, and
ing from the Federal University of Rio Grande do dedicated complex algorithms and architectures. He has co-authored over
Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1988 and 350 papers in these fields and in MOS devices, circuits, technology, and
1994, respectively, and the Dr.Eng. degree in electri- CAD. He was the Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Microelectronics
cal engineering from the Federal University of Santa with Federal University UFRGS from 2003 to 2007. Since 1989, he has been
Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil, in 2008. advised 41 master´s and 18 Ph.D. thesis. He served as the Chair of the IEEE
Since 1990, he has been a Full Professor with the LASCAS 2013, the track-Chair of ICM 2010/2011, IEEE/IFIP VLSI-SoC
Electrical Engineering Department, UFRGS, where 2011/2012 Symposium, and other ad hoc and consulting roles. He chaired the
he was the Head of the Electrical Engineering Program Committee of SBCCI and SBMICRO conferences. He was the Chair
Department from 2010 to 2011, and a Dr.Eng. and of the Ibero-American Microelectronics Conference in 1995, the X and XVIII
M.Sc. Advisor in the Microelectronics Graduate Program (PGMicro) of Symposium on Integrated Circuit Design in 1997, and the IEEE SBCCI 2005,
UFRGS. Since 2016, he has been the Local Coordinator of the Training Center the X Congress of the Brazilian Microelectronics Society, and the II Brazilian
1 of the Brazilian Design Training Program (IC Brazil Program) where he Microelectronics School in 1992. He served as the President of scientific
has been also serving as a Lecturer since 2009. societies SBPC and SBMICRO from 2002 to 2004, and the Council member
His research interests include analog, mixed-signal and RF IC design, of the IEEE SSC Society, the Brazilian Computer Society, and the Brazilian
in semiconductor device modeling and in variability modeling. He is a member Society for Advancement of Science. He is an IEEE Member of CASS, SSCS,
of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society. and ED Societies, and a member of CEDA.