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In electronic design, a netlist is a description of the connectivity of an electronic circuit.In its simplest form, a netlist consists of a list of the electronic components in a circuit and a list of the nodes they are connected to. A network (net) is a collection of two or more interconnected components.
The structure, complexity and representation of netlists can vary considerably, but the fundamental purpose of every netlist is to convey connectivity information. Netlists usually provide nothing more than instances, nodes, and perhaps some attributes of the components involved.If they express much more than this, they are usually considered to be a hardware description language such as Verilog or VHDL, or one of several languages specifically designed for input to simulators.
Netlists can be physical or logical, instance-based or net-based, and flat or hierarchical. The latter can be either folded or unfolded.
Most netlists either contain or refer to descriptions of the parts or devices used. Each time a part is used in a netlist, this is called an "instance".
These descriptions will usually list the connections that are made to that kind of device, and some basic properties of that device. These connection points are called "terminals" or "pins", among several other names.
An "instance" could be anything from a MOSFET transistor or a bipolar junction transistor, to a resistor, a capacitor, or an integrated circuit chip.
Instances have "terminals". In the case of a vacuum cleaner, these terminals would be the three metal prongs in the plug. Each terminal has a name, and in continuing the vacuum cleaner example, they might be "Neutral", "Live" and "Ground". Usually, each instance will have a unique name, so that if you have two instances of vacuum cleaners, one might be "vac1" and the other "vac2". Besides their names, they might otherwise be identical.
Networks (nets) are the "wires" that connect things together in the circuit. There may or may not be any special attributes associated with the nets in a design, depending on the particular language the netlist is written in, and that language's features.
Instance based netlists usually provide a list of the instances used in a design. Along with each instance, either an ordered list of net names is provided, or a list of pairs provided, of an instance port name, along with the net name to which that port is connected. In this kind of description, the list of nets can be gathered from the connection lists, and there is no place to associate particular attributes with the nets themselves. SPICE is an example of instance-based netlists.
Net-based netlists usually describe all the instances and their attributes, then describe each net, and say which port they are connected on each instance. This allows for attributes to be associated with nets. EDIF is probably the most famous of the net-based netlists.
In large designs, it is a common practice to split the design into pieces, each piece becoming a "definition" which can be used as instances in the design. In the vacuum cleaner analogy, one might have a vacuum cleaner definition with its ports, but now this definition would also include a full description of the machine's internal components and how they connect (motors, switches, etc.), like a wiring diagram does.
A definition which includes no instances is called a "primitive" (or a "leaf", or other names); whereas a definition which includes instances is "hierarchical".
A "folded" hierarchy allows a single definition to be represented several times by instances. An "unfolded" hierarchy does not allow a definition to be used more than once in the hierarchy.
Folded hierarchies can be extremely compact. A small netlist of just a few instances can describe designs with a very large number of instances. For example, suppose definition A is a simple primitive, like a memory cell. Then suppose definition B contains 32 instances of A; C contains 32 instances of B; D contains 32 instances of C; and E contains 32 instances of D. The design now contains 5 definitions (A through E) and 128 instances. Yet, E describes a circuit that contains over a million memory cells.
In a "flat" design, only primitives are instanced. Hierarchical designs can be recursively "exploded" ("flattened") by creating a new copy (with a new name) of each definition each time it is used. If the design is highly folded, expanding it like this will result in a much larger netlist database, but preserves the hierarchy dependencies. Given a hierarchical netlist, the list of instance names in a path from the root definition to a primitive instance specifies the single unique path to that primitive. The paths to every primitive, taken together, comprise a large but flat netlist that is exactly equivalent to the compact hierarchical version.
Backannotation is data that could be added to a hierarchical netlist. Usually they are kept separate from the netlist, because several such alternate sets of data could be applied to a single netlist. These data may have been extracted from a physical design, and might provide extra information for more accurate simulations. Usually the data are composed of a hierarchical path and a piece of data for that primitive or finding the values of RC delay due to interconnection.
Another concept often used in netlists is that of inheritance. Suppose a definition of a capacitor has an associated attribute called "Capacitance", corresponding to the physical property of the same name, with a default value of "100 pF" (100 picofarads). Each instance of this capacitor might also have such an attribute, only with a different value of capacitance. And other instances might not associate any capacitance at all. In the case where no capacitance is specified for an instance, the instance will "inherit" the 100 pF value from its definition. A value specified will "override" the value on the definition. If a great number of attributes end up being the same as on the definition, a great amount of information can be "inherited", and not have to be redundantly specified in the netlist, saving space, and making the design easier to read by both machines and people.
An electrical network is an interconnection of electrical components or a model of such an interconnection, consisting of electrical elements. An electrical circuit is a network consisting of a closed loop, giving a return path for the current. Linear electrical networks, a special type consisting only of sources, linear lumped elements, and linear distributed elements, have the property that signals are linearly superimposable. They are thus more easily analyzed, using powerful frequency domain methods such as Laplace transforms, to determine DC response, AC response, and transient response.
A relational database is a digital database based on the relational model of data, as proposed by E. F. Codd in 1970. A software system used to maintain relational databases is a relational database management system (RDBMS). Many relational database systems have an option of using the SQL for querying and maintaining the database.
Capacitive coupling is the transfer of energy within an electrical network or between distant networks by means of displacement current between circuit(s) nodes, induced by the electric field. This coupling can have an intentional or accidental effect.
The relative permittivity of a material is its (absolute) permittivity expressed as a ratio relative to the vacuum permittivity.
Wire wrap was invented to wire telephone crossbar switches, and later adapted to construct electronic circuit boards. Electronic components mounted on an insulating board are interconnected by lengths of insulated wire run between their terminals, with the connections made by wrapping several turns of uninsulated sections of the wire around a component lead or a socket pin.
Capacitance is the ratio of the change in electric charge of a system, to the corresponding change in its electric potential. There are two closely related notions of capacitance: self capacitance and mutual capacitance. Any object that can be electrically charged exhibits self capacitance. A material with a large self capacitance holds more electric charge at a given voltage than one with low capacitance. The notion of mutual capacitance is particularly important for understanding the operations of the capacitor, one of the three elementary linear electronic components.
Practical capacitors and inductors as used in electric circuits are not ideal components with only capacitance or inductance. However, they can be treated, to a very good degree of approximation, as being ideal capacitors and inductors in series with a resistance; this resistance is defined as the equivalent series resistance (ESR). If not otherwise specified, the ESR is always an AC resistance, which means it is measured at specified frequencies, 100 kHz for switched-mode power supply components, 120 Hz for linear power-supply components, and at its self-resonant frequency for general-application components. Additionally, audio components may report a "Q factor", incorporating ESR among other things, at 1000 Hz.
An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields. Electronic components are mostly industrial products, available in a singular form and are not to be confused with electrical elements, which are conceptual abstractions representing idealized electronic components.
In semiconductor design, standard cell methodology is a method of designing application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) with mostly digital-logic features. Standard cell methodology is an example of design abstraction, whereby a low-level very-large-scale integration (VLSI) layout is encapsulated into an abstract logic representation. Cell-based methodology — the general class to which standard cells belong — makes it possible for one designer to focus on the high-level aspect of digital design, while another designer focuses on the implementation (physical) aspect. Along with semiconductor manufacturing advances, standard cell methodology has helped designers scale ASICs from comparatively simple single-function ICs, to complex multi-million gate system-on-a-chip (SoC) devices.
Standard Parasitic Exchange Format (SPEF) is an IEEE standard for representing parasitic data of wires in a chip in ASCII format. Non-ideal wires have parasitic resistance and capacitance that are captured by SPEF. These wires also have inductance that is not included in SPEF. SPEF is used for delay calculation and ensuring signal integrity of a chip which eventually determines its speed of operation.
A variable capacitor is a capacitor whose capacitance may be intentionally and repeatedly changed mechanically or electronically. Variable capacitors are often used in L/C circuits to set the resonance frequency, e.g. to tune a radio, or as a variable reactance, e.g. for impedance matching in antenna tuners.
Capacitors are manufactured in many forms, styles, lengths, girths, and from many materials. They all contain at least two electrical conductors separated by an insulating layer. Capacitors are widely used as parts of electrical circuits in many common electrical devices.
Parasitic capacitance, or stray capacitance is an unavoidable and usually unwanted capacitance that exists between the parts of an electronic component or circuit simply because of their proximity to each other. When two electrical conductors at different voltages are close together, the electric field between them causes electric charge to be stored on them; this effect is parasitic capacitance. All actual circuit elements such as inductors, diodes, and transistors have internal capacitance, which can cause their behavior to depart from that of 'ideal' circuit elements. Additionally, there is always non-zero capacitance between any two conductors; this can be significant at higher frequencies with closely spaced conductors, such as wires or printed circuit board traces. Parasitic capacitance is a significant problem in high frequency circuits and is often the factor limiting the operating frequency and bandwidth of electronic components and circuits.
A capacitor is a device that stores electrical energy in an electric field. It is a passive electronic component with two terminals.
A capacitance meter is a piece of electronic test equipment used to measure capacitance, mainly of discrete capacitors. Depending on the sophistication of the meter, it may display the capacitance only, or it may also measure a number of other parameters such as leakage, equivalent series resistance (ESR), and inductance. For most purposes and in most cases the capacitor must be disconnected from circuit; ESR can usually be measured in circuit.
A ceramic capacitor is a fixed-value capacitor where the ceramic material acts as the dielectric. It is constructed of two or more alternating layers of ceramic and a metal layer acting as the electrodes. The composition of the ceramic material defines the electrical behavior and therefore applications. Ceramic capacitors are divided into two application classes:
Capacitors have many uses in electronic and electrical systems. They are so ubiquitous that it is rare that an electrical product does not include at least one for some purpose.
In electronic design automation, parasitic extraction is calculation of the parasitic effects in both the designed devices and the required wiring interconnects of an electronic circuit: parasitic capacitances, parasitic resistances and parasitic inductances, commonly called parasitic devices, parasitic components, or simply parasitics.
Film capacitors, plastic film capacitors, film dielectric capacitors, or polymer film capacitors, generically called "film caps" as well as power film capacitors, are electrical capacitors with an insulating plastic film as the dielectric, sometimes combined with paper as carrier of the electrodes.
Aluminum electrolytic capacitors are polarized electrolytic capacitors whose anode electrode (+) is made of a pure aluminum foil with an etched surface. The aluminum forms a very thin insulating layer of aluminium oxide by anodization that acts as the dielectric of the capacitor. A non-solid electrolyte covers the rough surface of the oxide layer, serving in principle as the second electrode (cathode) (-) of the capacitor. A second aluminum foil called “cathode foil” contacts the electrolyte and serves as the electrical connection to the negative terminal of the capacitor.
The netlist is written in a single file, but includes four sections: 1) A file header, 2) A table listing each of the components, 3) A table listing each of the net names, 4) A table listing each of the net connections. Every table entry is written using a single line of text that ends with a CRLF. The fields of the table are separated with Space characters (0x20). String fields begin and end with double quotes. Each of the three tables are terminated by a blank line (CRLF).