SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATIONS OF THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NOVI PAZAR
SER . A: AP PL . MATH . IN FO RM .AN D MECH. vol. 2, 1 (2010), 1-9.
A CMOS Voltage Controlled Ring Oscillator with Improved
c, M. Stojˇ
cev, Z. Stamenkovic
Abstract: A CMOS voltage controlled ring oscillator based on N-stage single-ended chain of
different inverter types is described in this paper. The proposal is characterized by increased
frequency stability (∆f/f<2%) in term of power supply voltage variations in respect to stan-
dard solutions (∆f/f>4%). The presented results are obtained using HSpice simulation and
CMOS library model, level 49, for 1.2
Keywords: Voltage controlled oscillator, ring oscillator, CMOS, frequency stability.
A voltage controlled oscillator (VCO) is one of the most important basic building blocks
in analog and digital circuits -. There are many different implementations of VCOs.
One of them is a ring oscillator based VCO, which is commonly used in the clock generation
subsystem. The main reason of ring oscillator popularity is a direct consequence of its
easy integration. Due to their integrated nature, ring oscillators have become an essential
building block in many digital and communication systems. They are used as voltage-
controlled oscillators (VCO’s) in applications such as clock recovery circuits for serial data
communications , , disk-drive read channels , on-chip clock distribution , and
integrated frequency synthesizers , . The design of a ring oscillator involves many
tradeoffs in terms of speed, power, area, and application domain . The problem of
designing a ring oscillator is in focus of our interest in this paper. This paper proposes a
suitable method for increasing frequency stability of a CMOS ring VCO.
The rest of the text is organized as follows. In Section 2, we give a brief review of volt-
age controlled ring oscillators, and deﬁne some crucial operating parameters. Hardware
description of the proposed ring oscillator is presented in Section 3. In addition we present
the simulation results which relate to frequency stability in terms of temperature and supply
Manuscript received January 27, 2010 ; revised April 17, 2010; accepted May 31, 2010.
c, M. Stojˇ
cev are with the University of Niˇ
s, Faculty of Electronic Engineering, Serbia; Z.
Stamenkovic is with the IHP GmbH,Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics Leibniz-Institut fuer
innovative Mikroelektronik, Im Technologiepark 25, 15236 Frankfurt (Oder) Germany
A CMOS Voltage Controlled Ring Oscillator with Improved Frequency Stability 2
voltage variation. In Section 4, we deﬁne the terms of jitter and phase noise in ring oscilla-
tors, and present the appropriate simulation results. Finally, conclusion is given in Sections
2 CMOS ring VCO - a review
A ring oscillator is comprised of a number of delay stages, with the output of the last stage
fed back to the input of the ﬁrst. To achieve oscillation, the ring must provide a phase
shift of 2
and have unity voltage gain at the oscillation frequency. Each delay stage must
provide a phase shift of
/N, where Nis the number of delay stages. The remaining phase
shift is provided by a dc inversion . This means that for an oscillator with single-ended
delay stages, an odd number of stages are necessary for the dc inversion. If differential
delay stages are used, the ring can have an even number of stages if the feedback lines are
swapped. Examples of these two circuits are shown in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1. Ring oscillator types: (a) single-ended and (b) differential
In order to determine a frequency of the ring oscillator we will use its linear model as
is given in Fig. 2.
R C CR R C
Fig. 2. . Linear model of ring oscillators
We assume that all inverting stages are identical and that they can be modeled as a trans-
conductance loaded by a parallel connection of resistor R and capacitor C. The gain of the
inverting stage is deﬁned as
) = A2(j
) = ...=AN(j
) = −gmR
According to Barkhausen criteria the ring oscillator is operative when the following condi-
tions are satisﬁed
)·. . . ·AN(j
A CMOS Voltage Controlled Ring Oscillator with Improved Frequency Stability 3
The frequency of oscillation is given by
and the minimal single stage gain is
Alternatively we can derive an equation for the frequency of oscillation if we assume that
each stage provides a delay of td. The signal goes through each of the Ndelay stages once
to provide the ﬁrst phase shift in a time of Ntd. Then, the signal must goes through each
stage a second time to obtain the remaining phase shift, resulting in a total period of 2Ntd.
Therefore, the frequency of oscillation is
The difﬁculty in obtaining a value for the frequency arises when trying to determine td,
mainly due to the nonlinearities and parasitic of the circuit. As is referred in  the delay
per stage is deﬁned as the change in output voltage at the midpoint of the transition, VSW ,
divided by the slew rate, Iss/C, resulting in a delay per stage of CVSW /Iss. Using deﬁnition
(5), the oscillation frequency is given by
3 Ring oscillator inverting stage
As we have already mentioned, the ring oscillators is realized with N inverter stages. There
are numerous types of inverter stages by which a ring oscillator can be realized , .
Some of the standard solutions are pictured in Fig. 3.
Designs given in Fig. 3 b), c), d) are of current starved type, for which the charging
and discharging output capacitor current is limited by a bias circuit. More details related to
realization of this type of inverter stage can be found in References , .
Relative frequency deviations in term of temperature variations for 3-stages ring os-
cillators based on type of inverters stages presented in Fig. 3 are given in Fig. 4. In
general all frequency deviations have similar behavior, but the basic type (Fig. 3 a)) and
current starved with symmetrical load (Fig. 3 d)) inverters have the highest, while cur-
rent starved with output-switching (Fig. 3 b)) inverter has the lowest sensitivity. The ratio
of relative frequency deviations between basic type (Fig. 3 a)) and current starved with
output-switching (Fig. 3 b)) inverters is 5:1.
A CMOS Voltage Controlled Ring Oscillator with Improved Frequency Stability 4
Fig. 3. Invertor: (a) basic type; (b) current starved with output-switching; (c) current starved with power-
switching; (d) current starved with symmetrical load.
Relative frequency deviations in term of power voltage supply variations for 3-stages
ring oscillators based on type of inverters stages presented in Fig. 3 are given in Fig. 5.
As can be seen from Fig 5, the basic type (Fig. 3(a)) and current starved with symmetrical
load (Fig. 3(d)) inverters have characteristics with negative slope, while current starved
with output-switching (Fig. 3 (b)) and current starved with power-switching (Fig. 3 (c))
inverters have characteristics with positive slope. Absolute value of inverters sensitivity
in function to power supply voltage variation is within a range of 10% excluding current
starved inverter with power-switching (Fig. 3 c)) inverters which has sensitivity of 5%.
Taking into consideration the opposite slope characteristics of the relative frequency de-
viations in terms of power voltage supply variations of the mentioned inverters (Fig. 5),
we can conclude that is reasonable to design a ring oscillator composed of cascade chain
of inverters. For example, odd numbered inverters can have positive, while even numbered
negative slope. In this way, the relative frequency deviation in term of power voltage supply
can be drastically reduced (more than 100%).
Several typical design solutions of 3-, 5- and 7- stages ring oscillators with reduced
sensitivity are given in Fig. 6 a), b) and c), respectively. We call them as combined ring
A CMOS Voltage Controlled Ring Oscillator with Improved Frequency Stability 5
Fig. 4. Relative frequency deviation in term of temperature variation
Fig. 5. Relative frequency deviation in term of power supply voltage variation
oscillators. Let note that in combined ring oscillators the odd numbered inverter stages are
implemented with basic type, while even numbered as current starved with output-switching
The relative frequency deviations in term of power supply voltage for all three type of
ring oscillators pictured in Fig. 6 are given in Fig. 7. By analyzing the results presented
in Fig. 7 we can conclude the following: The relative sensitivity of the ring oscillator from
Fig. 6 a) is less than 2%, while for those given in Fig. 6 b) and c) is less than 1%.
A CMOS Voltage Controlled Ring Oscillator with Improved Frequency Stability 6
Fig. 6. Combined ring VCOs
Fig. 7. Relative frequency deviation in term of power supply voltage variation for proposed ring VCOs
A CMOS Voltage Controlled Ring Oscillator with Improved Frequency Stability 7
4 Jitter and phase noise in ring oscillators
In general, CMOS circuits are sensitive both to power supply and temperature variations, as
well as to noise generated in IC’s building blocks (noise is inserted through power supply
and the substrate). Due to these effects, the propagation delay, td, is variable , , .
As a consequence there are variations in td, in respect to its nominal value. This deviation
is manifested as variation of the rising and falling pulse edges, and is referred as jitter (see
Fig. 8. Jitter effect
As can be seen from Fig. 8 the jitter for the rising edge is deﬁned as a rms time error
2. The normalized jitter value is deﬁned as a ratio between the effective time
error and its nominal delay value, i.e. ∆tdrms
Consider now a VCO with nominal period T0, and with a timing error accompanying
each period that is Gaussian, with zero mean and variance ∆tVCO
2. If this timing error is
expressed in terms of phase, ∆Φ =2
∆t/T0, then the variance of the phase error per cycle
of oscillation is given by 
The amount of phase noise for all types of ring oscillators discussed in this paper is
sketched in Fig. 9. By analyzing Fig. 9 we can conclude that the best performance (phase
noise approx. 0.06 rad) have ring oscillators based on current starved inverters with output-
switching, while the worst (phase noise approx. 0.3 rad) correspond to ring oscillators
realized with basic type or current starved with power-switching inverters. Combined ring
oscillators, composed of basic and current starved with output-switching inverters, have
approximately phase noise within the range 0.16-0.2 rad.
A CMOS Voltage Controlled Ring Oscillator with Improved Frequency Stability 8
Fig. 9. Relative frequency deviation in term of power supply voltage variation for proposed ring VCOs
Ring oscillators are basic building blocks of complex integrated circuits. They are mainly
used as clock generating circuits. Many different types of ring oscillators are presented
in literature -. They differ in respect to architectural, realization of inverters stages,
number of inverter stages, etc. In this paper we have considered realization of ring oscillator
based on four different types of single-ended inverters. The simulation was performed using
HSpice Version 03.2006 and library model for 1.2
mCMOS technology. According to the
obtained simulation results we can conclude:
a) that for frequency stability in terms of temperature variations the best performance
(∆f/f<2%) has current starved inverters with output-switching;
b) that for frequency stability in terms of power supply voltage variations the best per-
formance (∆f/f<4%) has current starved inverters with power-switching;
c) by realizing combined types of ring oscillator the relative frequency deviation in
terms of power supply voltage variations can be signiﬁcantly decreased (∆f/f<2%)
in respect to the best standard solutions (∆f/f>4%).
d) in respect to phase noise, ring oscillators based on current starved inverters with
output-switching have the best performance (phase noise approx. 0.06 rad).
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