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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: February 2019

12 - Fast arithmetic circuits

from Part III - Arithmetic circuits


In this chapter, we look at three methods for improving the speed of arithmetic circuits, and in particular multipliers. We start in Section 12.1 by revisiting binary adders and see how to reduce their delay from O(n) to O(log(n)) by using hierarchical carry-look-ahead circuits. This technique can be applied directly to build fast adders and is also used to accelerate the summation of partial products in multipliers. In Section 12.2 we see how the number of partial products that need to be summed in a multiplier can be greatly reduced by recoding one of the inputs as a sequence of higher-radix, signed digits. Finally, in Section 12.3 we see how the partial products can be accumulated with O(log(n)) delay by using a tree of full adders. The combination of these three techniques into a fast multiplier is left as Exercises 12.17 to 12.20.


Recall that the adder developed in Section 10.2 is called a ripple-carry adder because a transition on the carry signal must ripple from bit to bit to affect the final value of the MSB of the sum. This ripple-carry results in an adder delay that increases linearly with the number of bits in the adder. For large adders, this linear delay becomes prohibitive.

We can build an adder with a delay that increases logarithmically, rather than linearly, with the width of the adder by using a dual-tree structure as shown in Figure 12.1. This circuit works by computing carry propagate and carry generate across groups of bits in the upper tree and then using these signals to generate the carry signal into each bit in the lower tree. The propagate signal pij is true if a carry into bit i will propagate from bit i to bit j and generate a carry out of bit j. The generate signal gij is true if a carry will be generated out of bit j regardless of the carry into bit i.