A large-scale comprehensive evaluation of single-slice ring oscillator and PicoPUF bit cells on 28-nm Xilinx FPGAs

Chongyan Gu*, Chip Hong Chang, Weiqiang Liu, Neil Hanley, Jack Miskelly, Máire O’Neill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Lightweight implementation of security primitives, e.g., physical unclonable functions (PUFs) and true random number generator, in field programmable gate array (FPGA) is crucial replacement of the conventional decryption key stored in battery-backed random access memory or E-Fuses for the protection of field reconfigurable assets. A slice is the smallest reconfigurable logic block in an Xilinx FPGA. The entropy exploitable from each slice of an FPGA is an important factor for the design of security primitives. Previous research has shown that the locations of slices can impact the quality of delay-based PUF designs implemented on FPGAs. To investigate the effect of the placement of each single-bit PUF cell free from the routing resource constraint between slices, single-bit ring oscillator (RO) and identity-based PUF design (Pi-coPUF) cells that can each be fully fitted into a single slice are evaluated. To accurately evaluate their statistical performance, data from a large number of devices are required. To this end, 217 Xilinx Artix-7 FPGAs has been employed to provide a large-scale comprehensive analysis for the two designs. This is the first time single-slice disorder-based security entities have been investigated and compared on 28-nm Xilinx FPGA. Uniqueness, uniformity, correlation, reliability, bit-aliasing and min-entropy of each type of cell are evaluated for four different types of cell placement. Our experimental results corroborate that the location of both cell types in the FPGA affects their performances. For both cell types, the lower the correlation between devices, the higher the min-entropy and uniqueness. Overall, the min-entropy, correlation and uniqueness of PicoPUF are slightly higher than those of RO. Otherwise, the uniformity, bit-aliasing and reliability of the PicoPUF are slightly lower than those of the RO. Comparing the resource usage and metrics of the PicoPUF, ring oscillator PUF and some existing memory-based PUF implementations, PicoPUF stands out as a lightweight FPGA-based weak PUF design. The raw data for the PicoPUF design are made publicly available to enable the research community to use them for benchmarking and/or validation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-238
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cryptographic Engineering
Issue number3
Early online date24 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (EP/N508664/-CSIT2), the Singapore Ministry of Education AcRF Tier 1 Grant No. 2018-T1-001-131, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (62022041 and 61871216), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities China (NE2019102) and the Six Talent Peaks Project in Jiangsu Province (2018XYDXX-009).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Entropy
  • FPGA
  • PUF
  • Single slice
  • Regular Paper

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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