Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Ken Mai


A Physical Unclonable Function (PUF) is a die specific random function that can be used in a number of secure IC applications including die identification/authentication and key generation. At the core of a silicon PUF is a circuit (the PUF core) that generates random bits. These bits are like a silicon biometric, unique across dies, but can be reliably reproduced multiple times on a die across voltage and temperature variations and aging. In this thesis, we discuss various aspects of a PUF design, with a strong focus on circuit details. We describe the properties and the figures of merit of a PUF and then compare various PUF core implementations. We identify the biggest design challenges and provide several solutions. Results in this work are supported by measurement data from testchips designed in 65nm bulk CMOS.

We provide an apples-to-apples comparison of various PUF implementations. We demonstrate that while adequate randomness and uniqueness is achievable for most PUF implementations, achieving high reliability is a challenge. The conventional method to achieve high reliability is to use error correcting codes (ECC). Unfortunately, the overheads associated with these techniques grows very quickly with error correction capability. Alternately, researchers have proposed several error reduction techniques to minimize the use of error correction. In this work, we evaluate four orthogonal and complementary error reduction techniques. Two of these techniques, categorized as extrinsic techniques, are multiple evaluation (ME) and activation control (AC) and are able to reduce errors in PUF response by ~70-80%. The other two techniques, categorized as intrinsic, are post-silicon selection (PSS) and directed accelerated aging (DAA) and show ~100% correction of errors. As a proof of concept prototype, we describe a self-contained, BIST-controlled key-generator that implements the PSS technique to autonomously generate bits with a bit error rate < 5 * 10-9, equivalent to a 128-bit key error rate < 10-6. We also describe a realization of a strong-PUF that uses these highly reliable bits in conjunction with an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) primitive.