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Trends in electronics A. Y. 2015/16 - Lecture 1 

10 March 2016

Classroom 2.2 - Main building, School of Engineering and Architecture  

First lecture of the "Trends in Electronics" series will be given by Prof. Alexander Yakovlev (Newcastle University, UK) on Thursday March 10, 2016 from 11 am to 2 pm.

Topic: "Asynchronous Circuit Design: from Enigma to Reality".

For further information, please contact Prof. Riccardo Rovatti.


Asynchronous circuits (also called self-timed circuits) do not rely on a global clock signal and operate using local synchronisation mechanisms such as handshakes. This makes them very different from widely adopted synchronous circuits and promises many benefits, such as inherent tolerance to variations, low power, high performance, and better compositionality. Despite these benefits, asynchronous circuits are not yet widely adopted by industry, mainly because of the difficulties of integrating their design into the standard EDA tool flow.

In this lecture I will provide a general overview to the state-of-the-art of asynchronous circuit design and will familiarise the audience with existing tool support, using the example of the toolkit Workcraft (freely available at I will also highlight recent success stories, in particular, industrially adopted design flow for “little digital” hardware components -- asynchronous microcontrollers that establish the interface between “big digital” synchronous world and mixed-signal/analogue environment. I will show how one can formally design and verify such microcontrollers using Workcraft.

Finally, if time permits, I will discuss how freely available tools can be used for the design of “big digital” asynchronous dataflow pipelines, as well as fully self-timed SRAM, which allows to create systems where processors and memory can seamlessly operate at near-threshold voltages.

I will conclude by posing future research and development challenges that are currently on the agenda of the asynchronous community.

Speaker's bio

Alex Yakovlev was born in 1956 in Russia. He received DSc from Newcastle University in 2006, and MSc and PhD from Saint Petersburg Electrical Engineering Institute in 1979 and 1982 respectively, where he worked in the area of asynchronous and concurrent systems since 1980, and in the period of 1982-1990 held positions of assistant and associate professor at the Computing Science department. Since 1991 he has been at the Newcastle University, where he worked as a lecturer, reader and professor, first at the Computing Science and since 2002 at the Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He is heading the Microsystems research group ( and His interests and publications are in the field of modelling and design of asynchronous, concurrent, real-time and low-power circuits and systems. He has published six monographs, more than 350 papers in academic journals and conferences, has managed over 30 research contracts and supervised over 40 PhD students. He has been general chair and PC chair of several international conferences, including IEEE International Symposium of Asynchronous Circuits and Systems (ASYNC), Petri nets (ICATPN), Applications of Concurrency to System Design (ACSD), Network on Chip Symposium (NOCS), and has been chairing the Steering Committee of the ACSD conference for the last 15 years.

Among his scientific and engineering innovations are Signal (Transition) Graphs (STGs) and associated method of synthesis of asynchronous circuits (1982-1985), currently implemented in tools such as Petrify (1997) and Workcraft (2009-now), first globally asynchronous locally synchronous system with a fault-tolerant token ring communication channel (1986-1989), fully formally designed counterflow pipeline (1998), speed-independent SRAM (2010), patent on reference-free voltage sensor based on charge-to-digital converter (2013), method for analysis of nonlinear circuits consisting of capacitors and digital oscillators (2014), asynchronous designs for power regulation circuits (2015).

In 2001-2013 he was a Dream Fellow of the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), where he started to investigate different aspects of energy-modulated computing.

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