I'm designing an Ring Oscillator based PUF as part of my Masters Degree Research. 


Vivado 17.4

ZYBO (XC7Z010).

My design plan is as follow:

I have created three files , datapath, controller and a top module. In the Top module both of the datapath and controller are instantiated.

The datapath is the core Ring Oscillator PUF with a counter which counts its frequency.

The Controller is basically an Moore FSM. Which enables the RO for 0.5ms using a 100MHz Clock. So with a period of 10ns , it keeps incrementing a 16 bit counter and see if the it reached 50,000. If it is , it set enable = 0 meaning that 0.5ms has passed.

enter image description here


`timescale 1ns / 1ps
Whenever enable signal is set to logic 1, The ring oscilator keeps generating a square wave , 
which is fed into a 32-bit counter ,  on every negeative edge of the pulse (clock) the counter 
gets incremented by 1.

module datapath(
    input enable, reset, 
    output  [31:0] counter 
// Intermediate Connections    
wire w1,w2,w3;

// Output of Ring Oscillator 
wire clk;

// 32-bit register to hold value for the counter
reg [31:0] count = 0;

and #2(w1, enable, clk);
not #1(w2,w1);
not #1(w3, w2);
not #1(clk, w3);

always@(negedge clk)
    if (enable)
        count <= count + 1;
    if (reset)
        count <= 0;
  assign counter = count;


For a 100MHz clock on the FPGA, The counter will have exactly the value 50,000 in the counter. 
Period of each clock cycle will be 10ns , so 50,000 X 10 = 500,000 ns =  0.5ms
This controller enable the RO enable for 0.5ms and see how much it the value of counter is after 0.5ms, aka RO frequecny.

`timescale 1ns / 1ps

module controller(
    input clk,
    output reg reset = 1'b0, enable = 1'b0 

parameter START=0, RUN=1, STOP=2;
reg [1:0] state;
reg cmp = 0;

reg [15:0] counter = 0;

always @(posedge  clk) 
    case (state)
    START:  begin
                enable <= 1;
                state <= RUN;
     RUN:   begin 
                if (cmp)
                    state <= STOP;
                    state <= RUN;
                enable <= 0;
             state <= START;

always @(posedge clk)
    counter <= counter+1;
    if (counter == 50000) 
            counter <= 0;
            cmp <= 1;
     if (reset)
            counter <= 0;



input: enable, reset, 
output:  [31:0] counter 

input :  clk,
output: reset, enable


`timescale 1ns / 1ps

module top( input clk_f, reset_f ,   output [31:0] counter);

wire enable, reset;

datapath D(enable, reset, counter);
controller C(clk_f, reset, enable);


Test Bench:

`timescale 1ns / 1ps

module testbench();
// inputs
reg clk;
reg reset;

// Output
wire [31:0] counter;

top uut(clk,reset,counter);

initial begin
    reset = 0; 
    forever #5 clk=~clk;



#100 $finish;


The results with the test bench  enter image description here

Running the simulation for 0.5ms The results seems correct and indicating the design works as expected.

To see the results on the hardware. I have created IP block design having the top  (ON PL) connected to AXI GPIO with 32 bit channel.  Then then AXI connects to AXI Interconnect and finally ZYNQ processing system (PS). 

The block design is as follow:

enter image description here

In the SDK to read the AXI GPIO :

#include <stdio.h>
#include "platform.h"
#include "xil_printf.h"
#include "xgpio.h"
#include "xparameters.h"
#include "sleep.h"

int main()

    XGpio data_ch;
    int data;
    XGpio_SetDataDirection(&data_ch, 1,1);
    while(1) {
        data = XGpio_DiscreteRead(&data_ch,1);
        printf("Counter (32-bit): %d \r\n", data);
    return 0;

And here I'm continuously receiving 1.  Which is not the case. For an RO based PUF the output is expected as 180K-200K.

Can anybody point out the flaw the in the design? 

The full Vivado Project is here. 1RO_datapath_controller_design_sdk.zip 


For quick debugging I commented the always block in the datapath and set the count REG 999. 

After generating the bitstream again, and reprogramming the FPGA from the SDK and running , I get 999. 

So this confirms the datapath is OK, problem is the controller (FSM). ?

But how come it works as expected on the workbench?  ?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Look at the gate-level schematics of the final synthesized design to see how the ring oscillator was synthesized. Try creating just a ring oscillator without all of the other baggage, make sure you can successfully build the RO before adding the other parts of the design. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 21, 2021 at 18:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Make sure you have optimizations turned off. Check all logs to see if any logic is being simpliifed. The synthesizer could be optimizing logic you want out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Jan 21, 2021 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ElliotAlderson Thanks for the comment. Okay I'll take a look at the synthetized design only for the RO. But I wouldn't program that to the FPGA as an RO is a high speed element and it could damage the FPGA. For the same reason the Controller was designed to keep the RO in control and enable it only for a short time. I'll update you after I take a deep analysis. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khaalidi
    Jan 21, 2021 at 19:42
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Khaalidi I understand quite well how a ring oscillator is created and how it behaves. They are commonly used as test structures for wafer-level diagnostics. But where did you hear that a ring oscillator could damage an FPGA? The heat generated by a small RO is tiny. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 21, 2021 at 21:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Khaalidi Sorry, I don't think that is a reliable source. If Xilinx or Altera said it I would believe it. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 21, 2021 at 23:45

1 Answer 1


After spending hours to find the flaw in my design, I finally found the flaw. The lecture of Michael B. Taylor from University of California San Diego of the course CSE 141L: Introduction to Computer Architecture Lab was a lead to find the flaw.

In one of the lecture he advises to always use posedge for nonblocking assignments.

In datapath.v I made only this small change.

always@(posedge clk)
    if (enable)
        count <= count + 1;
    if (reset)
        count <= 0;

And now I can get the RO output instead of 1s.

But I still doubt how come this even worked with the testbench? 🤔🤔


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