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In this paper (split into Parts I and II), an extensive comparison of existing flip-flop (FF) classes and topologies is carried out. In contrast to previous works, analysis explicitly accounts for effects that arise in nanometer technologies and affect the energy-delay-area tradeoff (e.g., leakage and the impact of layout and interconnects). Compared to previous papers on FFs comparison, the analysis involves a significantly wider range of FF classes and topologies. In particular, in this Part I, the comparison strategy, which includes the simulation setup, the energy-delay estimation methodology, and an overview of an optimum design strategy, together with the introduction of the analyzed FF classes and topologies, are reported.