Using FPGA’s in Mission Critical Systems Issue 73

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xilinx73

Dramatic surges in FPGA technology,
device size and capabilities have over the
last few years increased the number of
potential applications that FPGAs can
implement. Increasingly, these applications
are in areas that demand high reliability,
such as aerospace, automotive or
medical. Such applications must function
within a harsh operating environment,
which can also affect the system
performance. This demand for high reliability
coupled with use in rugged environments
often means you as the
engineer must take additional care in the
design and implementation of the state
machines (as well as all accompanying
logic) inside your FPGA to ensure they
can function within the requirements.
One of the major causes of errors within
state machines is single-event upsets
caused by either a high-energy neutron or
an alpha particle striking sensitive sections
of the device silicon. SEUs can cause a bit
to flip its state (0 -> 1 or 1 -> 0), resulting
in an error in device functionality that
could potentially lead to the loss of the system
or even endanger life if incorrectly
handled. Because these SEUs do not result
in any permanent damage to the device
itself, they are called soft errors.

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