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Microprocessor Design (DM)

Credits Dept.
7.5 (6.0 ECTS) AC


Person in charge:  (-)

General goals

The aim of this subject is to allow students to be familiar with VLSI technologies and their potential, limitations and areas of application. Students learn how the basic structures of microprocessors are organized at the transistor level and the implications of the technology in the design. Also, they learn how to use circuit design tools and how to design VLSI circuits of medium complexity.

Specific goals


  1. Basic workings of MOS transistors (nMOS and pMOS).
  2. Basic concepts of CMOS technology.
  3. Design parameters for VLSI circuits: area, delay, power consumption.
  4. CMOS logic families.
  5. Basic structures of current microprocessors at the transistor level.


  1. Ability to design CMOS basic transistor gates.
  2. Ability to design basic transistor gates at the transistor level in dynamic CMOS logic.
  3. Ability to analyze the role played by delay and power consumption in a gate or small set of gates.
  4. Ability to analyze the role played by delay and power consumption in a gate or small set of gates, using simulators for this purpose.
  5. Ability to design the layout of a simple gate.


  1. Ability to solve problems through the application of scientific and engineering methods.
  2. Ability to create and use models of reality.
  3. Ability to work effectively in small groups to solve problems of middling difficulty.


Estimated time (hours):

T P L Alt Ext. L Stu A. time
Theory Problems Laboratory Other activities External Laboratory Study Additional time

1. Introduction to VLSI technology
T      P      L      Alt    Ext. L Stu    A. time Total 
2,0 0 0 0 0 2,0 0 4,0
The course content here will present the current situation regarding the technology, and will examine its development from a historical perspective.


2. CMOS technology
T      P      L      Alt    Ext. L Stu    A. time Total 
8,0 2,0 2,0 0 0 10,0 0 22,0
Basic concepts - The characteristics of CMOS technology will be described in this theme. The basic workings of MOS transistors will be described at both the logic and physical levels. The rules for designing circuits and the way they are manufactured will be discussed. The way in which transistors are combined in the design of simple and complex CMOS gates will also be explained. The evaluation of the basic parameters of transistors will also be covered.

  • Laboratory
    In the lab sessions, students will learn how to use SPICE language to describe the basic gates and to simulate their behaviour.

3. Implications of technology in design
T      P      L      Alt    Ext. L Stu    A. time Total 
10,0 4,0 4,0 0 0 14,0 0 32,0
How to calculate the design parameters: area, delay, power consumption. The content will also explain how to characterise a circuit in modular form.

  • Laboratory
    In the lab sessions, students will learn how to use the SPICE simulator to describe the various design parameters. Practical work on layout design will also be carried out.

4. CMOS technology: advanced concepts
T      P      L      Alt    Ext. L Stu    A. time Total 
10,0 4,0 4,0 0 0 14,0 8,0 40,0
The design of super-buffers, and other logic families will be described: pass gates, pseudo nMOS.
The workings of dynamic logic will be explained, together with some of its variations. Clock generation and distribution will also be covered.
  • Other activities:
    Students will conduct a study on the latest trends in the dynamic logic employed for providing high performance. The report will not exceed ten pages in length.
  • Laboratory
    Design and simulation of a dynamic gate, using SPICE. Evaluation of delay and power consumption. Using MAGIC to design a dynamic gate.

5. Microprocessor structures
T      P      L      Alt    Ext. L Stu    A. time Total 
15,0 5,0 4,0 0 8,0 20,0 0 52,0
The elements comprising microprocessors at the transistor level will be described: latches, registers, memories, ALUS, register banks.

  • Laboratory
    Design and implementation of a simple structure, using SPICE for this purpose
  • Additional laboratory activities:
    Students will propose the structure that they will design in the lab. This requires previous documentation from the scientific literature to find the circuit (e.g. latch implemented in a high-performance processor, memory cell in a real cache, etc.).
    Students will write a brief report on the whole project.

Total per kind T      P      L      Alt    Ext. L Stu    A. time Total 
45,0 15,0 14,0 0 8,0 60,0 8,0 150,0
Avaluation additional hours 4,5
Total work hours for student 154,5

Docent Methodolgy

The theory classes will take the form of lectures and problems.

Students will solve the exercises set by the teacher. The various solutions will be discussed at the end of the class.

In the lab classes, students will solve the exercises previously set by the teacher. The problems will be previously made available. At the end of the class, students have to submit a brief report on their findings. The final practical session involves great effort on students" part and consequently, a longer report will be required.

Evaluation Methodgy

The assessment is based on the following grades:

P1, P2: part tests

EF: Final Exam

L: Lab grade

Students obtaining the following grades: P1>=3.5 i P2>=3.5 may receive their final grade without having to sit the Final Exam, providing (P1+P2)/2 >= 5.0 (P1 and P2 are graded out of 10):

NF = 0.4 * (P1+P2) + 0.2 * L

The remaining students must sit the Final Exam and their final grade will be calculated as follows:

NF = 0.8 * EF + 0.2 *L

In any event, students opting for the Final Exam may increase their final grade, which will be the highest yielded by either of the two formulae above.

There is no additional restriction on the Final Exam and Lab grades.

Attendance at the P1 and P2 part exams is completely voluntary.

Basic Bibliography

(no available informacion)

Complementary Bibliography

(no available informacion)

Web links

(no available informacion)

Previous capacities

Previous knowledge of computer architecture will be useful. Specifically, students should have passed the Computer Architecture (AC) course.


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