Design of Ultra-Low-Power Analog-to-Digital Converters

Abstract: Power consumption is one of the main design constraints in today’s integrated circuits. For systems powered by small non-rechargeable batteries over their entire lifetime, such as medical implant devices, ultra-low power consumption is paramount. In these systems, analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) are key components as the interface between the analog world and the digital domain. This thesis addresses the design challenges, strategies, as well as circuit techniques of ultra-low-power ADCs for medical implant devices.Medical implant devices, such as pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators, typically requirelow-speed, medium-resolution ADCs. The successive approximation register (SAR) ADC exhibits significantly high energy efficiency compared to other prevalent ADC architectures due to its good tradeoffs among power consumption, conversion accuracy, and design complexity. To design an energy-efficient SAR ADC, an understanding of its error sources as well as its power consumption bounds is essential. This thesis analyzes the power consumption bounds of SAR ADC: 1) at low resolution, the power consumption is bounded by digital switching power; 2) at medium-to-high resolution, the power consumption is bounded by thermal noise if digital assisted techniques are used to alleviate mismatch issues; otherwise it is bounded by capacitor mismatch. Conversion of the low frequency bioelectric signals does not require high speed, but ultra-low-power operation. This combined with the required conversion accuracy makes the design of such ADCs a major challenge. It is not straightforward to effectively reduce the unnecessary speed for lower power consumption using inherently fast components in advanced CMOS technologies. Moreover, the leakage current degrades the sampling accuracy during the long conversion time, and the leakage power consumption contributes to a significant portion of the total power consumption. Two SAR ADCs have been implemented in this thesis. The first ADC, implemented in a 0.13-µm CMOS process, achieves 9.1 ENOB with 53-nW power consumption at 1 kS/s. The second ADC, implemented in a 65-nm CMOS process, achieves the same resolution at 1 kS/s with a substantial (94%) improvement in power consumption, resulting in 3-nW total power consumption. Our work demonstrates that the ultra-low-power operation necessitates maximum simplicity in the ADC architecture.