A Study of BER-Optimal ADC-Based Receiver for Serial Links

Yingyan Lin, Min Sun Keel, Adam Faust, Aolin Xu, Naresh R. Shanbhag, Elyse Rosenbaum, Andrew C. Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Analog-to-digital converter (ADC)-based multi-Gb/s serial link receivers have gained increasing attention in the backplane community due to the desire for higher I/O throughput, ease of design portability, and flexibility. However, the power dissipation in such receivers is dominated by the ADC. ADCs in serial links employ signal-to-noise-and-distortion ratio (SNDR) and effective-number-of-bit (ENOB) as performance metrics as these are the standard for generic ADC design. This paper studies the use of information-based metrics such as bit-error-rate (BER) to design a BER-optimal ADC (BOA) for serial links. Channel parameters such as the m-clustering value and the threshold non-uniformity metric ht are introduced and employed to quantify the BER improvement achieved by a BOA over a conventional uniform ADC (CUA) in a receiver. Analytical expressions for BER improvement are derived and validated through simulations. A prototype BOA is designed, fabricated and tested in a 1.2 V, 90 nm LP CMOS process to verify the results of this study. BOA's variable-threshold and variable-resolution configurations are implemented via an 8-bit single-core, multiple-output passive digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which incurs an additional power overhead of < 0.1% (approximately 50 μW). Measurement results show examples in which the BER achieved by the 3-bit BOA receiver is lower by a factor of 109 and 1010, as compared to the 4-bit and 3-bit CUA receivers, respectively, at a data rate of 4-Gb/s and a transmitted signal amplitude of 180 mVppd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7486052
Pages (from-to)693-704
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems I: Regular Papers
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016


  • Analog-to-digital converter
  • bit-error-rate
  • energy efficiency
  • mixed-signal
  • serial links

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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