Electrical and Computer Engineering ETDs

Publication Date



Cryptographic and authentication applications in application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), as well as codes for the activation of on-chip features, require the use of embedded secret information. The generation of secret bitstrings using physical unclonable functions, or PUFs, provides several distinct advantages over conventional methods, including the elimination of costly non-volatile memory, and the potential to increase the random bits available to applications. In this dissertation, a Hardware-Embedded Delay PUF (HELP) is proposed that is designed to leverage path delay variations that occur in the core logic macros of a chip to create random bitstrings. A thorough discussion is provided of the operational details of an embedded path timing structure called REBEL that is used by HELP to provide the timing functionality upon which HELP relies for the entropy source for the cryptographic quality of the bitstrings. Further details of the FPGA-based implementation used to prove the viability of the HELP PUF concept are included, along with a discussion of the evolution of the techniques employed in realizing the final PUF engine design. The bitstrings produced by a set of 30 FPGA boards are evaluated with regard to several statistical quality metrics including uniqueness, randomness, and stability. The stability characteristics of the bitstrings are evaluated by subjecting the FPGAs to commercial-grade temperature and power supply voltage variations. In particular, this work evaluates the reproducibility of the bitstrings generated at 0C, 25C, and 70C, and 10% of the rated supply voltage. A pair of error avoidance schemes are proposed and presented that provide significant improvements to the HELP PUF's resiliency against bit-flip errors in the bitstrings.


Computers--Security measures, Application-specific integrated circuits--Security measures, Field programmable gate arrays--Security measures, Integrated passive components.


National Science Foundation

Document Type




Degree Name

Computer Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Plusquellic, James

Second Committee Member

Zarkesh-Ha, Payman

Third Committee Member

Crandall, Jedidiah

Fourth Committee Member

Bauer, Todd