Metastability-Containing Circuits

Abstract : In digital circuits, metastability can cause deteriorated signals that neither are logical 0 nor logical 1, breaking the abstraction of Boolean logic. Synchronizers, the only traditional countermeasure, exponentially decrease the odds of maintained metastability over time. We propose a fundamentally different approach: It is possible to deterministically contain metastability by fine-grained logical masking so that it cannot infect the entire circuit. At the heart of our approach lies a time-and value-discrete model for metastability in synchronous clocked digital circuits, in which metastability is propagated in a worst-case fashion. The proposed model permits positive results and passes the test of reproducing Marino's impossibility results. We fully classify which functions can be computed by circuits with standard registers. Regarding masking registers, we show that more functions become computable with each clock cycle, and that masking registers permit exponentially smaller circuits for some tasks. Demonstrating the applicability of our approach, we present the first fault-tolerant distributed clock synchronization algorithm that deterministically guarantees correct behavior in the presence of metastability. As a consequence, clock domains can be synchronized without using synchronizers, enabling metastability-free communication between them.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - 12:47:08 PM
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Stephan Friedrichs, Matthias Függer, Christoph Lenzen. Metastability-Containing Circuits. IEEE Transactions on Computers, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2018, pp.1167 - 1183. ⟨10.1109/TC.2018.2808185⟩. ⟨hal-01936292⟩

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