Marcel Pelgrom, the renowned researcher and namesake of the Pelgrom Law is honoured for his contributions to chip design; he is the first recipient ever from a commercial entity. Marcel Pelgrom is the recipient of the 2017 Gustav Robert Kirchhoff Award from the IEEE. The long-time NXP researcher and inventor was recognised for “seminal contributions to systematic analysis of random offsets in semiconductor devices and their impact on circuits,” where his theories on random component variation led to the Pelgrom Law, widely acknowledged as a critical enabler of design efficiency in analog chip design.

The Kirchhoff Award, given at the 2017 edition of the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), is sponsored by the IEEE Circuits & Systems Society. Notably, this is the first time in the award’s history that the honouree comes from the commercial electronics industry, with previous recipients coming from academia and research.

“Marcel’s work literally transformed generations of chip designs and is a linchpin in the advancement of a wide range of circuitry that forms the foundation of devices that touch our lives every day,” said Lars Reger, CTO, Automotive at NXP. “His significant contributions helped NXP establish a leadership position in high-performance, mixed-signal circuits and we continue to make use of his insights in virtually every technology we use, both analog and digital. More significantly, it inspired and enabled thousands of engineers throughout the world, and sparked a broader movement in understanding statistical phenomena across the semiconductor industry. I deeply admire his work.”

Pelgrom is most known for his formulation of the random variation (mismatch) behavior between two otherwise identical components. His work is the starting point for proper analysis of matching, essential for accurate analog circuits. The Pelgrom Law or “Pelgrom Model” has been accepted by the global device and design community as an elegant description for mismatch. His 1989 prediction still holds after more than 12 technology generations. The general formulation of the model has allowed applications to other devices, like bipolar devices, resistors and capacitors.

Pelgrom’s contribution has had a dramatic impact on the design efficiency of analog designers, allowing engineers to optimise designs for lowest power and highest yield. Pelgrom’s mismatch model has become an essential performance metric for technology optimisation, serving as the key element of communication between the technologists and device physicists on one hand and the design community on the other.

”I am incredibly honoured to be recognised by the IEEE and included in such prestigious company of past Kirchhoff Award winners. The namesake of the award is a true pioneer and personal inspiration to me, so it is especially meaningful”, said Pelgrom. “I am also extremely grateful for the opportunities Philips and NXP have given me over the years to pursue my research and provide a practical means to see it implemented to benefit actual chip designers and product developers. The freedom and resources to research and be surrounded with such gifted fellow engineers has been an essential factor in our ability to advance our findings. I am happy to see my colleagues continuing and expanding this research field to keep our company at the forefront of high performance circuits.”

After earning degrees from the Arnhem Polytechnical School (BEE with honours) and the University of Twente (MEE with honours and a Ph.D), Pelgrom began his a career in 1979 at Philips Research, which later became part of NXP. In addition to his groundbreaking research, during that time he wrote three books on AD conversion and taught this topic to generations of R&D engineers at NXP. He retired from NXP in 2013 and is still active as an advisor, consultant and trainer. He regularly teaches classes at TU Delft, University of Twente and Stanford University and serves as honorary professor at the KU Leuven.