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Research Abstracts - 2007
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Evolutionary Multi-Objective Analog/RF Circuit Optimization:
Exploiting Easy-to-Get Designer Knowledge to Guide Variation Operators

Varun Aggarwal, Lynne Salameh & Una-May O'Reilly


Circuit optimization has primarily taken two directions, first that of stochastic black-box optimization with SPICE-based evaluations [1] (also known as simulation-based approach) and second, that of expressing the circuit as equations which are then plugged into a geometric program solver [2]. The former requires little effort and time from the circuit designer who only has to setup SPICE scripts for performance measurement of the circuit and to choose which variables are optimized. However, the optimization is slow since SPICE is invoked in-loop for every iteration of the optimization and there is no exploitation of the knowledge of the particular circuit being optimized. Also, blackbox optimization gives no guarantee of finding the global optima. The latter approach, that of equation based optimization using geometric programming, requires a lot of effort and time on part of the designer to write accurate equations for the circuit. Once the equations are written, fast interior point algorithms are used to find the global optima. Though the optimization algorithm guarantees global optimization, the inaccuracy in the optimization is due to inaccurate circuit equations and transistor models. These inaccuracies and the requirement of expressing models in the form of posynomials can be prohibitive.

Given the above scenario, the industry has adopted black-box optimization as a tool-based approach, where the designer can use a blackbox optimization tool to size any circuit he/she wants. This approach is prohibitive for very large circuits. Geometric Programming has shown some acceptance as an IP-based approach, where geometric programs for particular circuits (popularly called IP in semiconductor industry) are written and these circuits can be very quickly optimized/ported to a new technology. Extension to new circuits is not straightforward and requires time and effort.

We are interested in simulation-based approaches because they can generally be applied to any circuit. Our goal is to address the slow speed and inaccuracy of these approaches by using some knowledge from the particular circuit being optimized. Currently, these algorithms are 'blind' and behave similarly for all circuits. When we incorporate knowledge, our primary concern is to only demand circuit knowledge that the designer is able to provide with minimal effort and time. As a secondary concern  we demand that our algorithm should be robust to errors in this information.

This goal leads to number of questions: Is there exploitable knowledge about circuits, which a black-box optimization algorithm could use? The fact that some circuits can be expressed as geometric programs indicates some useful ''structure'' (in Operational Research terms) in the circuit space. Is this information easy for the designer to provide? What is an effective representation of this information? How can the black-box optimization algorithm incorporate this information for better optimization?

We have found some answers to some of these questions by looking more closely at how designers size circuits and what information they use for it. As well, we have looked in depth into theory and practice of genetic operators for evolutionary algorithms and exploited insights therein to incorporate this information into the algorithm. We believe we have made some strides towards being able to understand how to design operators for multi-objective optimization in general.


We have identified structure (or a set of relationships or patterns) in the design space of circuits which is exploitable by any stochastic black-box algorithm in general [3]. In our understanding, this structure is a key element of the intuition-based strategy that an analog designer actively uses during manual sizing. We have devised a compact tabular representation to capture this information from the designer. The information, specifically, is which design variables are correlated to a given circuit specification and what is the sensitivity direction of the specification with each of the correlated variable. The qualitative nature of the information makes it very easy for the designer to provide and makes chances of designer error very low.

We have devised a mechanism by which a stochastic algorithm can use this information to do fast and more accurate optimization. Tested on two opamp topologies using of a multi-objective genetic algorithm, the technique gives a speedup of more than 10x and much more accurate optimization than a baseline algorithm without any information about the circuit. Around 38% optimal circuits of baseline algorithm are worse than our algorithm, while 5% of circuits of our circuits are minimally worse than the baseline algorithm [3].

The first part of the innovation is in designing a compact representation to qualitatively capture design knowledge, while the second part is to design operators to incorporate this knowledge in to a multi-objective algorithm for better optimization. We believe that this work is the first steps towards building a theory of operators for multi-objective evolutionary optimization and modifying the ideas of building-blocks from single-objective optimization to suit pareto-optimization [4].

We are working on using our approach to optimize larger blocks such as PLLs.


[1] B. D. Smedt and G. Gielen. WATSON: Design space boundary exploration and model generation for analog and RF IC design. IEEE Trans. on CAD of Int. Circuits and Systems,22(2):213�224, 2003.

[2] M. Hershenson, S. S. Mohan, S. P. Boyd, and T. H. Lee. Optimization of inductor circuits via geometric programming. In DAC, pages 994�998, New York, NY, USA, 1999. ACM Press.

[3] V. Aggarwal, U.M. O'Reilly, "Structural information in simulation-based approaches for efficient circuit sizing", Paper under Submission

[4] V. Aggarwal, U. M. O'Reilly, "COSMO: A correlation sensitive mutation operator for multi-objective optimization", Accepted at GECCO 2007, London, UK.


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