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Current postgraduate taught students

COMP70042: Low-Power System Design (2007-2008)

This is an archived syllabus from 2007-2008

Low-Power System Design
Level: 7
Credit rating: 15
Pre-requisites: A general familiarity with microprocessor systems is assumed.
Co-requisites: No Co-requisites
Lectures: 8 - 10 hours.
Course lecturer: not assignedAdditional staff: view all staff
Assessment Breakdown
Exam: 0%
Coursework: 0%
Lab: 0%


The aim of this course is to introduce students to the practical aspects of engineering high-performance computer systems where power consumption is a major consideration at every stage of the design. The course is heavily based around the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor, a world-leading processor for power-sensitive applications, and covers many aspects of designing power-efficient systems around ARM cores

Learning Outcomes

A student completing this course unit should have achieved:
an understanding of the principles of the ARM and Thumb instruction sets and their practical use.
an understanding of the principles of low-power RISC processor design.
an insight into the design of memory hierarchies for power-efficient systems, and an ability to apply a systematic methodology to memory hierarchy design
an overview of the system-level issues involved in designing a particular power-sensitive application (a GSM digital mobile phone handset).
a preliminary view of the potential role of asynchronous design in future low-power systems.
an ability to write clear and concise reports on matters relating to low-power design.

Assessment of Learning outcomes

100% assessed excercises. Assignments (typical):
Assignment 1 is concerned with the analysis of cache memory behaviour.
Assignment 2 is concerned with the analysis and optimisation of a representative low power application program.


Computing is becoming increasingly mobile, both in recognisable forms such as lap-top computers and in forms where the computing function is concealed such as digital mobile telephones. Mobile computing increases significantly the importance of minimising the power consumed by the system as excessive consumption directly compromises battery life.

ARM assembly language programming

ARM software development tools; the ARM programmers' model; the ARM instruction set; writing simple programs; example programs

Support for high-level languages

ARM data types; memory organization; high-level language support.

The ARM instruction set in detail

Operating modes and exceptions; conditional execution; instruction types and functions.

The Thumb instruction set

The Thumb programmers' model; Thumb instructions; Thumb implementation; Thumb applications; example Thumb programs.

ARM integer cores

ARM organization; the ARM 3- and 5-stage pipelines; the ARM7TDMI core; the ARM9TDMI core.

Architectural extensions

The ARM coprocessor interface; floating-point support; DSP support.

Memory hierarchy

On-chip RAM; caches; memory management; operating systems; the ARM system control coprocessor; the ARM MMU architecture; the ARM memory protection unit.


The ARM700 series; the ARM810; StrongARM; the ARM900 series; the ARM1020


The ARMulator; JTAG test access port; embedded core debug; embedded trace; the AMBA on-chip bus; hardware prototyping; examples of embedded system chips.

Case study - a GSM handset

The GSM digital cellular network; handset organisation; hardware/software trade-offs; power minimisation.

Asynchronous design for low power

Motivation for asynchronous design; asynchronous design styles; micropipelines.

The AMULET microprocessors

AMULET1 organisation; AMULET1 characteristics; lessons from AMULET1; the AMULET2e asynchronous embedded controller; the AMULET3H SoC subsystem; the DRACO chip.

Reading List

Full course notes, including the laboratory manual, will be supplied as work packages in Text and/or PDF format.

Delivery Mode:

Fully on-line distance learning with on-line support.
10 hours of on-line tutorials.
Bulletin boards on-line.
Work package documents supplied on-line.
Course material course notes and CBT package supplied on-line.
On-line examination.
Course book paper based.

Core Text
Title: ARM system-on-chip architecture (2nd edition)
Author: Furber, Steve
ISBN: 0201675196
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Edition: 2nd
Year: 2000