Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Nicola Nicolici




The number of speed-limiting paths in modern digital integrated circuits (ICs) is in the range of millions. Due to un-modelled electrical effects and process variations in advanced fabrication technologies, it is difficult for pre-silicon timing analysis tools to provide accurate delay estimates. Hence, programmable delay elements are commonly inserted in high-performance circuits in order to provide a tuning mechanism at the post-silicon phase. Due to the large number of such tuning elements, finding the appropriate configuration bits for each element mandates an automated approach.

In this thesis we present three contributions to the field of digital IC design automation that leverage the presence of programmable delay tuning elements. These new automated approaches are geared toward three distinct objectives. The first one is to maximize the circuit performance using a scalable algorithmic framework. The second objective is to combat the lifetime performance degradation caused by circuit aging. The final objective is to improve the timing of the scan enable signal during the at-speed testing of digital ICs.

As the programmable delay tuning elements will become prevalent in the future generations of digital ICs, the contributions from this thesis will help improve the design methodologies that are expected to evolve in order to address at runtime the timing problems introduced by the increased fabrication process variability.

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