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Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) are used in a variety of applications, ranging from consumer electronics to devices in spacecrafts because of their flexibility in achieving requirements such as low cost, high performance, and fast turnaround. SRAM-based FPGAs can experience single bit flips in the configuration memory due to high-energy neutrons or alpha particles hitting critical nodes  in the SRAM cells, by transferring enough energy to effect the change. High energy particles can be emitted by cosmic radiation or traces of radioactive elements in device packaging. The result of this could range from unwanted functional or data modification, data loss in the system, to damage to the cell where the charged particle makes impact. This phenomenon is known as a Single Event Upset (SEU) and makes fault tolerance a critical requirement in FPGA design. This research proposes a shift in architecture from current SRAM-based FPGAs such as Xilinx Virtex. The proposed architecture includes an inherent SEU detection through parity checking of the configuration memory. The inherent SEU detection sets a syndrome flag when an odd number of bit flips occur within a data frame of the configuration memory. To correct a fault, the FPGA is partially reconfigured without interrupting the normal operation of the FPGA device. Existing solutions include: Triple Modular Redundancy (TMR) systems [1, 2, 5]; readback and compare the configuration memory ; and periodically reprogramming the entire configuration memory, also known as scrubbing . The advantages afforded by the proposed architecture over existing solutions include: faster error detection and correction latency over the readback method and better area and power overhead over TMR.
Date of Conference: 14-16 Nov. 2007