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The Father Of CMOS Design

He is pushing the envelope of high-speed communication circuits, improving the speed of communication transceivers using standard CMOS technology.

Professor Behzad Razavi was recently awarded the IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award for his work on high-speed, complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) circuits and design. His goal for the past two decades has been to push the envelope of high-speed communication circuits, improving the speed of communication transceivers using standard CMOS technology. His work in the area of wireless transceivers pioneered the concept that innovations at the architectural level can greatly relax the design at the circuit level.

Razavi was also an early proponent of direct conversion for wireless transceivers, which is widely used in many wireless systems including cellular phone handsets. PD&D, a sister publication, had the chance to catch up with the professor and find out why his students and peers have affectionately dubbed him the “Father of CMOS Design”.

PD&D: Can you tell me a little bit about your contributions to the world of solid-state circuits?

Professor Behzad Razavi: I have conducted research in the area of high-speed and radio-frequency integrated circuits for more than 20 years. My research has strived to push the performance envelope of these circuits, as defined by speed, power consumption, and signal quality. To this end, my students and I have introduced new circuit topologies and system architectures, and demonstrated their record-breaking performance in each case. My research has also dealt with the theoretical study of interesting and important phenomena in circuits and the problem of modeling. 

I have also published seven books on the analysis and design of analog and RF circuits.

PD&D: Can you tell me about your specific work and accomplishments that has provoked the title of “Father of CMOS Design”?

Razavi: Pushing the performance of CMOS circuits inevitably leads to innovations. If the novel ideas are robust and reproducible, they are embraced by the community. My guess is that the stream of new concepts produced by my research, along with my textbooks, on the design of CMOS circuits have provoked this title.

PD&D: How has your research changed over the years?

Razavi: The choice of research topics is often based on one’s prediction of future needs in a given area. My close interaction with industry helps me make these predictions and embark upon new research. Sometimes, a new topic is just based on pure speculation, but it is challenging and interesting enough to warrant investigation.

PD&D: What are you working on now, and what can we expect in the future?

Razavi: One of our present exciting topics is cognitive radios. We hope to demonstrate that versatile, broadband radios can be realized with low power consumption, low cost, and eventually, supplant the multiplicity of radios that we presently have in our cell phones.

PD&D: What do you see for the future of fiber-optic and wireless communications technologies beyond your research?

Razavi: The optical fiber market has been relatively dormant in the past ten years. My hope is that the situation will change once the economy is better. Optical networks operating at 40 or 100 Gbits/s will be necessary sometime in the near future, and merit extensive development efforts.

Wireless communications will continue to penetrate our lives. From home appliances to cars, all devices will be wirelessly connected and controlled. I imagine a world where cars are driven autonomously and controlled by a vast wireless network.

PD&D: In the world of CMOS design, what keeps you up at night?

Razavi: Sometimes an interesting effect that cannot be explained intuitively, sometimes a circuit that has been fabricated, but does not work well.

This article appeared in the April issue of PD&D’s Motion Control and Automation digital supplement. To view the issue, click

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