AN 866: Mitigating and Debugging Single Event Upsets in Intel® Quartus® Prime Standard Edition

ID 683869
Date 9/28/2021
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1. Mitigating Single Event Upset

Single event upsets (SEUs) are rare, unintended changes in the state of an FPGA's internal memory elements caused by cosmic radiation effects. The change in state is a soft error and the FPGA incurs no permanent damage. Because of the unintended memory state, the FPGA may operate erroneously until background scrubbing fixes the upset.

The Intel® Quartus® Prime Standard Edition software offers several features to detect and correct the effects of SEU, or soft errors, as well as to characterize the effects of SEU on your designs. Additionally, some Intel FPGAs contain dedicated circuitry to help detect and correct errors.

Figure 1. Tools, IP, and Circuitry for Detecting and Correcting SEU

Intel FPGAs have memory in user logic (block memory and registers) and in Configuration Random Access Memory (CRAM). The Intel® Quartus® Prime Programmer loads the CRAM with a .sof file. Then, the CRAM configures all FPGA logic and routing. If an SEU strikes a CRAM bit, the effect can be harmless if the device does not use the CRAM bit. However, the effect can be severe if the SEU affects critical logic or internal signal routing.

Often, a design does not require SEU mitigation because of the low chance of occurrence. However, for highly complex systems, such as systems with multiple high-density components, the error rate may be a significant system design factor. If your system includes multiple FPGAs and requires very high reliability and availability, you should consider the implications of soft errors. Use the techniques in this document to detect and recover from these types of errors.

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