As Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are becoming more capable of implementing complex logic circuits, designers are increasingly choosing them over traditional microprocessor-based systems for implementing digital controllers and digital signal processing applications. Indeed, as FPGAs are being built using state-of-the-art deep submicron CMOS processes, the increased amount of logic and memory resources allows such FPGA-based implementations to compete in terms of speed, complexity, and power dissipation with most custom-built chips, but at a fraction of the development costs. The modern FPGA is now capable of implementing multiple instances of configurable processors that are completely specified by a high-level descriptor language. Such arrays of soft processor cores have opened up new design possibilities that include complex embedded systems applications that were previously implemented by custom multiprocessor chips. As the FPGA-based multiprocessor system is completely configurable by the user, it can be optimized for speed and power dissipation to fit a given application. The goal of this thesis is to investigate design methods for implementing an array of soft processor cores using the Xilinx FPGA-based 8-bit microcontroller known as PicoBlaze. While development tools exist for the larger 32-bit processor from Xilinx known as MicroBlaze, no such resources are currently available for the PicoBlaze microcontroller. PicoBlaze benefits in applications that requires only less data bits (less than 8 bits). For example, consider the gene sequencing or DNA sequencing in which the processing requires only 2 to 5 bits. In such an application, PicoBlaze can be a simple processor to produce the results. Also, the PicoBlaze unit offers a finer level of granularity and hence consumes fewer resources than the larger 32-bit MicroBlaze processor. Hence, the former will find applications in embedded systems requiring a complex design to be partitioned over several processors but where only an 8-bit datapath is required.

Date of publication

Fall 8-2011

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