spice optimizer using differential evolution


This page is about combining the free spice simulator ngspice with a differential evolution (DE) optimizer. The DE optimizer is written in octave. The DE optimizer was already available from Price/Storn.

This page describes the neccessary glue code between the simulator and the optimizer and the changes made in the optimizer code. It contains:

  1. the modified DE solver
  2. controller script examples
  3. functions to read and write template files
  4. functions that read spice rawdata simulation files
  5. some examples how to use these files with spice
Note: This page got it's inspiration from the asco project, which uses the DE-solver in combination with other spice simulators. It is written in C. Many thanks to the asco developer for the nice discussions.

Information Flow

The simulation requires a simulation template file, a controller file with cost function, some helper functions and the differential evolution solver. The calling tree looks like this:

controller file: setup of variable ranges and simulation setup, prepare the template file
  DE-solver: generate populations, feed the cost function with test vectors
     cost function: call all spice routines and return a cost value
       * create spice input file out of the test vector and the prepared template file
       * call spice simulator with that input file
       * read the spice result file
       * calcutale the cost of the test vector

Boundary Problem

The original DE solver of Storn/Price has no boundaries. You can set boundaries for the initial population set, but if the minima of the cost function lays outside that boundaries the DE algorithm will follow that minima.

Sometimes this is not allowed, for example infinite high capacitance values or stripline impedances larger than 377 Ohms. That's why either the DE solver or the cost-function needs to handle that case. Moving that boundary problem handling into the DE solver, it has to be written only once.

The newly introduced boundary modes are:

possible problems and benefits

If the solution is close at one or more boundaries the reject mechanism in mode 1 will destroy lots of the test vectors. Sometimes only 10 percent of a newly generated population survive the rejection criteria. Keeping the elements inside the simulation boundaries may speed up the optimization process.

On the other hand, mode 2, 3 and 4 introduces new population members that are not really a result of the DE algorithm. They may disturb the original DE algorithm. Mode 5 is a compromise.

Example 1: RC lowpass filter

This example is only to show the optimizing process. It would be much easier to write a cost function that represents the RC-lowpass instead of using spice to do so.

RC lowpass filter schematic

Below the cutoff frequency the signal level at the output has to be above 1/sqrt(2) = 0.707. This is the constraint for a lowpass filter. The cutoff frequency is defined inside the cost function. For every simulation point that violates that constraint I sum up a high penalty, e.g. 1 million.

Above the cutoff frequency there should be no signal. Well, no signal is not possible, but we can optimize the parameters to make the signal above the cutoff frequency as low as possible. As cost function I just sum up the amplitudes of the simulation values.

Note: As the constraint cost is much higher than the optimization cost, the optimizer will first fulfil the constraint and after that start the optimisation.

All part values have predefine value ranges. Usually nobody uses large capacitances or very small resistance values. That ranges are defined in the parameters structure.

progress of the optimization

Each population member (parameter set) has its own cost value. To track the progress of optimization its usefull the plot these values. Sorting the values creates a nicer plotting graph.

If you have only two values to optimize you can use an XY-plot of the population parameters, too.

The following graph shows the cost after the first few parameter generations

optimisation progress steps 2-10

After the fifteens step, every parameter set fulfils the contraint function an the plot of the cost values rescales.

optimization progress steps 16-25

The cost graph becomes flatter and flatter. If the graph does not longer change very much, it's likely that the optimizer found a good parameter set for the problem.

optimization progress steps 25-250

After about 200 generations the result seems to be close at the optimum point.

Iteration=200,  Best=2.353330e+01, cost_max=2.371315e+01,  cust_sum=9.443513e+02
best(1)=1.000237e+03  [1.000003e+03, 1.111371e+03]
best(2)=9.953464e+03  [9.284823e+03, 9.998692e+03]
best(3)=1.040548e-08  [9.269194e-09, 1.107771e-08]
best(4)=9.158298e-10  [8.664365e-10, 1.060045e-09]
It is also possible to watch the progress using the frequency response graph.

frequency response

The corresponding values to the graphs are:

gen. cost-value    R1 value      R2 value      C1 value      C2 value
1    5.662344e+01  2.804826e+03  5.016530e+03  2.012948e-10  7.849078e-10
4    3.201472e+01  9.894972e+03  3.881069e+03  1.368857e-09  1.505603e-10
6    3.068797e+01  5.292370e+03  4.089315e+03  2.561857e-09  3.286352e-10
13   2.823533e+01  1.245779e+03  1.496412e+03  9.375706e-09  2.347155e-09
16   2.584715e+01  2.162824e+03  9.980067e+03  5.568652e-09  5.877688e-10
50   2.432388e+01  1.043795e+03  5.612230e+03  9.591718e-09  1.509151e-09
119  2.360833e+01  1.005972e+03  9.710440e+03  1.047474e-08  9.197885e-10
290  2.352395e+01  1.000819e+03  9.997582e+03  1.021856e-08  9.290190e-10

Example 2: CMOS inverter

This second example can only be solve with spice. It will optimize the DC characteristics of an inverter. The optimization goals are: To optain that result I'm altering the channel length and width of the two transistors.

inverter schematic

The result of the optimization looks like this:

inverter result graph The optimisation progress table of that run was:

gen. cost-value    M1 length     M1 width      M2 length     M2 width
2    3.716249e+00  1.510325e-06  7.798511e-05  2.073922e-06  4.611444e-04
2    1.408342e+00  4.322362e-06  8.861741e-05  1.917413e-06  1.569822e-04
3    3.771702e-01  8.795242e-06  2.642304e-04  2.499718e-06  3.134509e-04
7    2.084642e-01  2.452974e-06  5.018399e-05  4.700672e-06  4.917347e-04
28   1.971755e-01  2.154091e-06  5.045458e-05  1.774857e-06  1.653767e-04
88   1.617096e-01  9.720249e-06  2.863535e-04  3.053421e-06  3.982465e-04
144  1.564798e-01  3.668417e-06  9.669770e-05  1.561664e-06  1.476800e-04
199  1.082068e-01  9.836934e-06  2.305452e-04  3.946488e-06  4.306234e-04
214  1.043691e-01  6.950546e-06  1.795173e-04  3.856918e-06  4.637418e-04
232  5.164239e-02  6.356350e-06  1.613084e-04  3.870419e-06  4.622413e-04

Example 3: impedance matching

Imaging you have a complex load and you want to match it to 50 Ohms. To match that load you can use to 2 striplines or microstriplines. The goal is to get a good match between 2.4GHz and 2.6GHz

impedance matching schematic

At that connection of R1, T2 and T3 the incident and reflected voltage are there. To get the reflected voltage the incident voltage has to be removed.

The reflection coefficient ist V_reflected/V_incident. As V_incident is 1V, the reflection coefficient is equal to V_reflected.

The next graph shows the reflection in the complex plain.

smith chart

The optimisation progress table of that run was (some lines removed):

gen. cost-value    T2 Z0         T3 Z0         T2 TD         T3 TD
0    59.605        50            50            1e-12         1e-12
2    4.879770e+00  4.711152e+01  1.156916e+02  1.535854e-10  1.608469e-10
8    3.918364e+00  5.757418e+01  8.546133e+01  1.436777e-10  1.462799e-10
9    3.366191e+00  6.433881e+01  7.151574e+01  5.831321e-11  1.822875e-10
21   3.332348e+00  4.894428e+01  6.274242e+01  5.178099e-11  1.796019e-10
42   3.247336e+00  4.624785e+01  6.786233e+01  5.044231e-11  1.807375e-10
76   3.165438e+00  4.324340e+01  5.498546e+01  5.053047e-11  1.792231e-10
303  3.075487e+00  4.000000e+01  5.946972e+01  4.737848e-11  1.797402e-10


programming language: octave
natural language: english
licence: the DE-solver has a BSD-like licence, please read the DE_solve.m function for more informations, all other files are released into public domain.
download: DE_ngspice_octave-0.0.2.tar.gz


Differential Evolution homepage of Rainer Storn
asco: circuit optimizer, written in C
simulator homepage: ngspice
all schematics created with gschem: gEDA homepage
Werner Hoch
Last modified: Sun Mar 19 22:47:35 CET 2006