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The University of Southampton

ELEC6234 Embedded Processors

Module Overview

This module gives a broad introduction to application-specific processor system design and illustrates the use of such processors in the broader context of complex digital systems. A significant portion of the module assessment is coursework where students will design a complete, practical processor system and demonstrate it on an FPGA platform. An introduction to modern embedded architectures such as ARM Cortex, OpenRISC, Altera NIOS and Xilinx picoBlaze will be given. The module will use the hardware description language SystemVerilog (and also SystemC), introduced in ELEC6236 Digital System Design.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Embedded processor architecture design, including instruction set design, arithmetic hardware, instruction decoding, anchoring, /O multi-processing, modern industrial embedded processors such as ARM Cortex, Altera NIOS and Xilinx picoBlaze, picoMIPS
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Design application-specific modern processor architectures that are fit-for-purpose in embedded applications and optimised for size and performance
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Show a mature approach to the design, verification and evaluation of complex digital systems
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Use modern FPGA synthesis tools to evaluate and verify designs, develop and test processor designs on an FPGA development platform


- Revision of RISC architecture principles - Processor RTL hardware blocks - Control path, Program Counter and Program Memory, - Data path, ALU, Register files, caches, memories, synchronous RAM in processor designs - Embedded hardware blocks, hardware multipliers, DSP blocks - Instruction set and instruction decoder - Performance analysis, design for low energy consumption - Soft microprocessor cores - Altera NIOS, Xilinx picoBlaze, ARM Cortex-M1, OpenRISC - Application Specific PicoMIPS concept and examples - Multi and many-core embedded processor system - Application case studies

Learning and Teaching

Wider reading or practice35
Follow-up work18
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Completion of assessment task27
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Laboratory sessions are scheduled in the labs on level 2 of the Zepler building Length of each session: 15 minutes Number of sessions completed by each student: 1 Max number of students per session: 8 Demonstrator: student ratio: 1:1 Preferred teaching weeks: 10 to 11


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 50%
Final Assessment  50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: ELEC2221 AND (ELEC2204 OR ELEC3221) OR ELEC6259

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