Seminar on Clockless Chip

Ram Pothuraju

Clockless Chip


The main concept behind a clockless design is evident from the name itself. That is, they don't have a global clock which synchronizes its actions. So there must be some control mechanism which should synchronize the components inside a clockless chip to ensure correct working of the chip. The clockless chips rely up on handshaking signals, handoff signals & sometimes a local clock to synchronize the actions. By throwing out the clock, chip makers will be able to escape from the problems of the synchronous circuits.
Description of Clockless Chip

Clockless chips draw power only when there is useful work to do, enabling a huge savings in battery-driven devices; an asynchronous-chip-based pager marketed by Philips Electronics, for example, runs almost twice as long as competitors' products, which use conventional clocked chips.

Like a team of horses that can only run as fast as its slowest member, a clocked chip can run no faster than its most slothful piece of logic; the answer isn't guaranteed until every part completes its work. By contrast, the transistors on an asynchronous chip can swap information independently, without needing to wait for everything else. The result? Instead of the entire chip running at the speed of its slowest components, it can run at the average speed of all components. At both Intel and Sun, this approach has led to prototype chips that run two to three times faster than comparable products using conventional circuitry.

Every action of the computer takes place in tiny steps, each a billionth of a second long. A simple transfer of data may take only one step; complex calculations may take many steps. All operations, however, must begin and end according to the clock's timing signals. The use of a central clock also creates problems. As speeds have increased, distributing the timing signals has become more and more difficult. Present-day transistors can process data so quickly that they can accomplish several steps in the time that it takes a wire to carry a signal from one side of the chip to the other. Keeping the rhythm identical in all parts of a large chip requires careful design and a great deal of electrical power. Wouldn't it be nice to have an alternative? Clockless approach, which uses a technique known as asynchronous logic, differs from conventional computer circuit design in that the switching on and off of digital circuits is controlled individually by specific pieces of data rather than by a tyrannical clock that forces all of the millions of the circuits on a chip to march in unison.

It overcomes all the disadvantages of a clocked circuit such as slow speed, high power consumption, high electromagnetic noise etc.For these reasons the clockless technology is considered as the technology which is going to drive majority of electronic chips in the coming years. The clock is a tiny crystal oscillator that resides in the heart of every microprocessor chip. The clock is what which sets the basic rhythm used throughout the machine. The clock orchestrates the synchronous dance of electrons that course through the hundreds of millions of wires and transistors of a modern computer.Such crystals which tick up to 2 billion times each second in the fastest of today's desktop personal computers, dictate the timing of every circuit in every one of the chips that add, subtract, divide, multiply and move the ones and zeros that are the basic stuff of the information age.

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