Pushing the Limits Further: Sub-Atomic AES

  • Markus Stefan WamserEmail author
  • Georg Sigl
Conference paper
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 500)


The recent trend to connect a plethora of sensors, embedded and ubiquitous systems with low computing power, in short the rise of the Internet of Things, has created a great demand for compact, lightweight and cheap to produce implementations of cryptographic primitives.

One approach to meet this demand is the development and standardisation of new tailored primitives, most prominently PRESENT. Yet, the wide proliferation of the Advanced Encryption Standard and the trust it earned through its long history of withstanding cryptanalysis spurred anew the search for small, lightweight implementations of AES.

Among the smallest published architectures is the AtomicAES design by Banik et al., who reported a design size of just over 2000 GE.

Here we present a new 8-bit serial architecture that has been designed from careful observation of the minimum required connections between storage elements to support all dataflows required for execution of the algorithm. While we reach similar conclusions to previous publications, the new architecture enables us to push the area requirement for a fully featured AES primitive further down by more than 8% from the area requirement of AtomicAES while offering more functionality.

Along the way we also answer in the affirmative the open question whether the AES reverse keyschedule can be implemented with negligible hardware overhead based on the forward keyschedule.

Our design sets a new record for an 8-bit serial architecture with full functionality for encryption and decryption including the keyschedule, as well as for a sole encryption architecture. Furthermore our design is flexible enough to allow scaling the S-Box architecture from single-cycle to multi-stage pipelined approaches as are required for high operation frequencies or for protection against side-channel attacks. We demonstrate this by instantiating the design with a serial version of the S-Box to reduce the area requirement even further.


AES Lightweight 8-bit-serial ASIC Block cypher S-Box 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lehrstuhl für Sicherheit in der InformationstechnikTechnische Universität MünchenMunichGermany

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