Design of Energy-Efficient Approximate Arithmetic Circuits
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Energy consumption has become one of the most critical design challenges in integrated circuit design. Arithmetic computing circuits, in particular array-based arithmetic computing circuits such as adders, multipliers, squarers, have been widely used. In many cases, array-based arithmetic computing circuits consume a significant amount of energy in a chip design. Hence, reduction of energy consumption of array-based arithmetic computing circuits is an important design consideration. To this end, designing low-power arithmetic circuits by intelligently trading off processing precision for energy saving in error-resilient applications such as DSP, machine learning and neuromorphic circuits provides a promising solution to the energy dissipation challenge of such systems. To solve the chip’s energy problem, especially for those applications with inherent error resilience, array-based approximate arithmetic computing (AAAC) circuits that produce errors while having improved energy efficiency have been proposed. Specifically, a number of approximate adders, multipliers and squarers have been presented in the literature. However, the chief limitation of these designs is their un-optimized processing accuracy, which is largely due to the current lack of systemic guidance for array-based AAAC circuit design pertaining to optimal tradeoffs between error, energy and area overhead. Therefore, in this research, our first contribution is to propose a general model for approximate array-based approximate arithmetic computing to guide the minimization of processing error. As part of this model, the Error Compensation Unit (ECU) is identified as a key building block for a wide range of AAAC circuits. We develop theoretical analysis geared towards addressing two critical design problems of the ECU, namely, determination of optimal error compensation values and identification of the optimal error compensation scheme. We demonstrate how this general AAAC model can be leveraged to derive practical design insights that may lead to optimal tradeoffs between accuracy, energy dissipation and area overhead. To further minimize energy consumption, delay and area of AAAC circuits, we perform ECU logic simplification by introducing don't cares. By applying the proposed model, we propose an approximate 16x16 fixed-width Booth multiplier that consumes 44.85% and 28.33% less energy and area compared with theoretically the most accurate fixed-width Booth multiplier when implemented using a 90nm CMOS standard cell library. Furthermore, it reduces average error, max error and mean square error by 11.11%, 28.11% and 25.00%, respectively, when compared with the best reported approximate Booth multiplier and outperforms the best reported approximate design significantly by 19.10% in terms of the energy-delay-mean square error product (EDE_(ms)). Using the same approach, significant energy consumption, area and error reduction is achieved for a squarer unit, with more than 20.00% EDE_(ms) reduction over existing fixed-width squarer designs. To further reduce error and cost by utilizing extra signatures and don't cares, we demonstrate a 16-bit fixed-width squarer that improves the energy-delay-max error (EDE_(max)) by 15.81%.
Shao, Botang (2014). Design of Energy-Efficient Approximate Arithmetic Circuits. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from