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Design considerations of an amorphous silicon demultiplexer.


In amorphous silicon (a-Si) technology, we deal with lower device performance compared to single crystal silicon. Successful integration of a-Si based circuits faces the challenges of low field mobility, high parasitic coupling and metastability [1]. So, we seek solutions to compensate for shortcomings inherent to amorphous silicon and build circuits meeting performance requirements. To solve the problem of metastability, two approaches are suitable. The first consists of designing circuits less sensitive to threshold voltage shifts. The second approach is to apply bipolar pulses instead of unipolar positive voltages, or to apply pulses with small duty cycle ratios which improve the circuit's lifetime [2]. Despite extensive study of amorphous silicon thin-film transistors' (a-Si:H TFTs) electrical instability [3], careful design is still needed for reliable circuits. Some of these circuits are gate drivers for AMLCDs' and AMOLEDs' applications. Several architectures were proposed [4]-[7] and, despite their feasibility and applicability, they present advantages and shortcomings due to the limitations of amorphous silicon. Their characteristics depend on the techniques used for implementation [8]. In this paper, a variant of one of these gate drivers using an analytical model of a coplanar structure of amorphous silicon TFT is presented. This model is described in detail in [9] for the static analysis and in [10] for the dynamic one. Using Cadence tools, the simulations were performed in Virtuoso analog design environment where the TFT model was described in a Verilog-A hardware description language. Typical direct and transfer characteristics obtained for a 100 [micro]m/7[micro]m a-Si:H TFT are illustrated on Fig.1 and Fig. 2, respectively.




The proposed demux circuit is a variant of an architecture studied in [8]. The revision deals with the improvement of its performance for display applications. First, a 1:8 demux is considered. One branch of the circuit is presented on Fig. 3. It consists of three switching TFTs coupled in series in a pass transistor logic and an output transistor whose role is to make the output voltage insensitive to the variation of the TFTs' parameters. These TFTs drive the gate lines of the display array. The capacitance at the output represents the overall gate capacitance of all the TFTs connected to that gate line. Pulse voltage sources which switch from [] to [V.sub.dd] are used in order to avoid threshold voltage shifts. To improve the circuit response, I propose an alternative design which consists in the addition of a resistance R connected to the gate of the output transistor. Usually, this resistance is used to ensure a discharge path and to enable the output node capacitance to discharge to [] when the corresponding branch is not selected. In this case, the discharging path is ensured by the external pulse voltage source through the TFTs in series. The output transistor is forced to the saturation region instead of the linear one in order to improve demux speed. In this study, I am mainly interested in the circuit performance in terms of the effect of the additional resistance on response time and driving capability of the demux.


To estimate the requirements that the demux must yield, a frame frequency of 60 Hz is considered. As the frame rate is dominated by the time, [t.sub.line], for the demux to turn on all the switching TFTs on an entire row of the matrix [2], the demux must verify the condition of [t.sub.line] value of 1/60/480 = 34.72 us for 480 gate lines. With pass-transistors in series in each of its branches and a load capacitance at its end, a [1:2.sup.N] demux acts, for each selection, like an RC circuit where R is the sum of the ON resistances of the TFTs in series, and C the load capacitance [C.sub.L] that it drives. This load is the gate line capacitance, normally the sum of all the capacitances of the TFTs constituting the addressed line in the matrix (neglecting the resistance of the gate metal). Thus, if a matrix of 480 x 640 pixels is considered, [C.sub.L] will be estimated as 640 x [C.sub.tft] where [C.sub.tft] represents the gate capacitance of an a-Si:H TFT. For a TFT with WL = 100 [micro]m x 8 [micro]m as gate surface and nitride thickness of 250 nm, [C.sub.tft] = 0.2 pF, which gives for [C.sub.L], 128 pF. In the simulations a value of 100 pF was taken. The resistance [R.sub.ON] was found to be approximately 4 M[ohm] for WL = 100 [micro]m x 8 [micro]m and [V.sub.G] = 30 V. Since the speed of the demux is governed by the time taken to charge and discharge the load capacitance, and if [] and [T.sub.dis] are the times of the output (capacitance voltage) to rise from 10% to 90% and to fall from 90% to 10% of its steady state value, respectively, charging and discharging time is 2.2 x 1 x [R.sub.on][C.sub.L], a value of approximately 0.88ms. This value is overestimated because the resistance of the transistor [T.sub.1] in saturation is neglected. According to its canonic form, a 1:2 demux should contain just one transistor per branch. The second device was added to simulate a realistic case and to estimate the effect of the on-resistance of pass-transistors on the signal applied to the gate of the output transistor. To reduce [] and [T.sub.dis] one can reduce [R.sub.on] and/or [C.sub.L]. This leads to use transistors with higher W/L ratios respecting the pixel size. As mentioned above, the functionality of the circuit under study was tested by transient simulations performed in Virtuoso analog design environment where the developed TFT model was described in a Verilog-A code.

The select signal and the signals [V.sub.1] and [V.sub.2] are used to be bipolar pulses which vary from -30V to 30V and a duty cycle of 50%. The pulse width of [V.sub.2] is made larger to ensure that all the pixels in the display array are written. The simulation tests were run on R values varying from 50 M[ohm] to 1 G[ohm]. They revealed that this resistance must be large enough to allow maximum charging of the gate line capacitance. An example of the response of the 1:8 demux branch at different nodes is illustrated on Fig. 4.



The obtained waveforms show that the addition of R does not affect the demux operation. To investigate the performance of the proposed architecture, a 1:2 demux is studied for simplicity. For a larger demux, one would connect the different branches in parallel according to its canonic form. The complete circuit is shown on Fig. 5. [V.sub.selb] is the inverted signal of the select signal [V.sub.sel]. [W.sub.1]/[L.sub.1], [W.sub.2]/[L.sub.2] and [W.sub.out]/[L.sub.out] are, respectively, the aspect ratios of transistors [T.sub.1], [T.sub.2] and [T.sub.out]. It should be noted that for this circuit variant, each branch has its own output transistor. This may improve the driving capability of the demux. The response in terms of charging and discharging times of [C.sub.L] was investigated without, then with addition of resistance R. I first studied the effect of the output transistor sizing and the value of the resistance R on these parameters. The trends are illustrated on Fig. 6-Fig. 8. The simulations were performed for parameters, when constant, of [W.sub.1]/[L.sub.1] = [W.sub.2]/[L.sub.2] = 150 [micro]m /10 [micro]m, [L.sub.out] = 10 [micro]m, R = 1G[ohm] and [W.sub.out] = 400 [micro]m. [] and [T.sub.dis] were extracted as described above. The figures show that, despite the difference is not very large, the charging and discharging times values are lower when adding resistance R compared to those without R, especially for lower values of [L.sub.out] and [W.sub.out]. As expected, with or without R, [] and [T.sub.dis] decrease when [L.sub.out] decreases, [W.sub.out] increases and R increases. In fact, when the output transistor has a relatively short channel and when it is large enough, its current driving capability becomes important helping achieve the charging/discharging requirements. This is improved by biasing [T.sub.out] in the saturation regime.

The resistance accelerates [] and [T.sub.dis]. On the other hand it appears that for the same range of variation of R the charging operation is accelerated compared to the discharging one ([T.sub.dis] is smaller than []). Adding resistance R seems to have no effect on the discharging time, because the discharging path is ensured by the series transistors of the chain.




As the voltage V(R) at the resistance node is directly applied to the gate of the output transistor, I have investigated the role that may have the sizing of the series transistors on the output gate transistor and then on the demux response, with and without addition of R. Figure 9 and Fig. 11 show this role.


Figure 9 presents the variation of [T.sub.out] gate voltage as a function of width of transistor [T.sub.1]. While the gate voltage of [T.sub.out] change slightly with [W.sub.1] without addition of R, it increases with this parameter from 10 [micro]m to 100 [micro]m, then becomes almost stable as [W.sub.1] increases when R is added.


The same trends are observed for the variation of the output transistor gate voltage with the width of transistor [T.sub.2] when R is added (Fig. 10). However, without addition of R, the gate voltage of [T.sub.out] decreases with increase of [W.sub.2], then stabilizes when [W.sub.2] reaches 400 [micro]m.


Figure 12 shows the variation of [T.sub.out] gate voltage and feed-through without and with addition of resistance R. An overlap gate-to-source capacitance of 50 nF was used. It appears that, even feed-through increases with increasing R value because of the increase of the output transistor gate voltage, it remains lower than that without addition of resistance R (a voltage of 28.52 V and a feed-through of 2.16 V). The improvement varies from 10 mV for R = 1 G[ohm] to 20 mV for R = 50 M[ohm] and is more significant for larger overlap capacitances. In fact, without resistance R, the pass-transistors see the gate capacitance of the output transistor as output capacitance. If the overlap is important, feed-through may occur when [T.sub.out] passes from on-state to off-state [11], [12]. The capacitance coupling between the transistor gate and source may lead to a voltage drop in the output signal. Therefore, adding R reduces this effect.

From the above descriptions, one can observe that the addition of resistance R gives an indication of one way to minimize the output transistor gate voltage and feed through voltage. This helps in minimizing the thresholdvoltage shift when the transistors' sizing is optimized and leads to a stability of the demux circuit and to an optimization of circuit layout. On the other hand, the driving capability and the speed of the demux are enhanced with large values of resistance R and larger transistors. Demux response is thus improved even it is not advantageous when designing the circuit layout. Thus, the trade-off between increasing transistors' aspect ratios to balance the charging and the discharging times and decreasing these parameters for a feed through voltage minimization is very clear.



The obtained results, namely those related to the propagation delay, driving capability and stability are similar to those obtained in the literature where the feasibility of integrating gate drivers in amorphous silicon technology for active matrix display and imaging arrays was proven experimentally. In [2] and [5] for example, similarities in terms of order of magnitude for the delay time and resistance values, respectively confirm that higher values of resistances and larger transistors help in achieving better reliability for long term operation.


Throughout this paper, developed static and dynamic models for a-Si:H TFTs operations have been described in a Verilog-A hardware description language and extended to probe an a-Si demux functionality. The demux is proposed for active matrix array applications as an improvement of an earlier published architecture. Some issues related to the demux design are addressed and suggestions for the optimization of the circuit layout, driving capability, stability and speed are presented. With reference to these issues, the proposed circuit exhibits better performance and is subject of a trade-off between threshold voltage immunity and speed.This is crucial to build reliable gate drivers.


Manuscript received December30, 2012; accepted April 8, 2013.


The present work was performed in MAZ (Mikroelektronik-Anvendungszentrum) Brandenbourg GmbH-Berlin, Germany, by using cadence tools. So the author would like to thank Prof. O. Manck, Manager of this society and Prof. at the Institut fur TechnischeInformatick und Mikroelectronik, TU-Berlin for this opportunity.


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Z. Hafdi (1)

(1) Department of Electronics, Batna University, Road Chahid Boukhlouf Mohamed El-Hadi, 05000, Batna, Algeria
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Author:Hafdi, Z.
Publication:Elektronika ir Elektrotechnika
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6ALGE
Date:Aug 1, 2013
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