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Abstract

DC-DC converters based on Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) have been developed in this doctoral work for the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC) experiments at CERN. They step down the voltage from a 2.5 V line and supply a load current up to 3 A. The main focus has been the miniaturization of the converters while maintaining high efficiency, together with the improvement of the dynamic performance and the minimization of the impact of substrate parasitic devices. These are challenges that industry and research are facing to power modern microprocessors, with the aim of minimizing the system volume, cost and power consumption, while guaranteeing good regulation performance. Miniaturization is a key requirement for application in the HL-LHC experiments, since any added material is detrimental for the physics performance. In addition, the converters must be tolerant to a high magnetic field (up to 4 T) and to ultra-high levels of radiation. Tolerance to the magnetic field is achieved by employing air-core inductors (which are the bulkiest components on the board), while radiation-hard ASICs have been designed in this work in a commercial 130 nm CMOS technology by extensively applying hardening by design techniques. Converters using two different architectures have been designed: a buck converter, which had been identified in a previous work as a good option to achieve high efficiency and low mass, and a Resonant Switched-Capacitor (ReSC) converter, which can further increase the power density while keeping high efficiency. A novel dual-edge pulse width modulator for the buck converter that has improved dynamic performance compared to conventional solutions has been designed and implemented. Its small-signal response has been modeled, and the model has been validated by measurements. In addition, this thesis proposes an integrated system that monitors in real-time the voltage stress experienced by the devices of the buck converter and adjusts its operation accordingly, in order to guarantee the required reliability, while maximizing the efficiency. The main building block of this system has been designed and has proved to be fully functional. A substrate-currents-aware characterization method that allows the evaluation of the impact of substrate parasitic devices on the circuit performance and reliability has been also devised, and it has been applied to select the best floor-plan for the buck converter. A novel control scheme that optimizes the efficiency of the ReSC converter for the whole load current range by adopting different operation modes has been proposed and implemented. This thesis reports the steady-state analysis of each mode and a small-signal model for one of them. The buck converter uses a 100 nH inductor, and the last prototype shows a peak efficiency of 88.4% for the 2.5 V-to-1.2 V conversion. It complies with the radiation specifications, and mass production will soon start. The designed prototype ReSC converter employs a 12 nH inductor, and its area occupancy and thickness are respectively 20% and 55% lower than the buck. Its efficiency is larger than that of the buck converter in a range of conversion ratios and load currents, reaching a peak efficiency of 91.4% for the 2.5 V-to-1.2 V conversion. Radiation tests have highlighted that the converter complies with Total Ionizing Dose specifications. By introducing a few improvements, a future prototype could be close to production readiness.

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