Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Electrical and Computer Engineering


Applied sciences


Dr. Mohammed A. S. Khalid




Soft-core processors offer embedded system designers the benefits of customization, flexibility and reusability. Altera's NIOS II soft-core processor is a popular, commercially available soft-core processor that can be implemented on a variety of Altera FPGAs. In this thesis, the Nios II soft-core processor from Altera Corporation was studied and a VHDL implementation, called UW_Nios II, was developed. UW_Nios II was developed to enable us to perform design space exploration (DSE) for the Nios II processor. It was evaluated and compared with Altera Nios II and shown to be competitive. SCBuild is an existing CAD tool that was developed to enable DSE of soft-core processors. We modified SCBuild to automatically explore the design space of the UW_Nios II using a genetic algorithm. This tool can accurately estimate the area and critical path delay of different variants of the UW_Nios II on a field programmable gate array. Through experiments conducted using SCBuild, it was shown that employing a genetic algorithm to explore the design space of parameterized Nios II core, with a large design space, helps designers find optimized variants of UW_Nios II.