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Beyond the Interconnections: Split Manufacturing in RF Designs

Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Blvd, Orlando, FL 32816, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Dhananjay S. Phatak
Electronics 2015, 4(3), 541-564;
Received: 26 June 2015 / Revised: 3 August 2015 / Accepted: 5 August 2015 / Published: 18 August 2015
PDF [1577 KB, uploaded 18 August 2015]


With the globalization of the integrated circuit (IC) design flow of chip fabrication, intellectual property (IP) piracy is becoming the main security threat. While most of the protection methods are dedicated for digital circuits, we are trying to protect radio-frequency (RF) designs. For the first time, we applied the split manufacturing method in RF circuit protection. Three different implementation cases are introduced for security and design overhead tradeoffs, i.e., the removal of the top metal layer, the removal of the top two metal layers and the design obfuscation dedicated to RF circuits. We also developed a quantitative security evaluation method to measure the protection level of RF designs under split manufacturing. Finally, a simple Class AB power amplifier and a more sophisticated Class E power amplifier are used for the demonstration through which we prove that: (1) the removal of top metal layer or the top two metal layers can provide high-level protection for RF circuits with a lower request to domestic foundries; (2) the design obfuscation method provides the highest level of circuit protection, though at the cost of design overhead; and (3) split manufacturing may be more suitable for RF designs than for digital circuits, and it can effectively reduce IP piracy in untrusted off-shore foundries. View Full-Text
Keywords: hardware trust; IP piracy; power amplifier; RF circuit; split manufacturing hardware trust; IP piracy; power amplifier; RF circuit; split manufacturing

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Bi, Y.; Yuan, J.S.; Jin, Y. Beyond the Interconnections: Split Manufacturing in RF Designs. Electronics 2015, 4, 541-564.

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