Clock Domain Crossing (CDC) Pulse Synchronizer (4-phase handshake)

Reliably passes a synchronous posedge pulse from one clock domain to another when we don't know anything about the relative clock frequencies or the pulse duration. Uses a 4-phase asynchronous handshake.

The recommended input is a single-cycle pulse in the sending clock domain. The output is a single-cycle pulse in the receiving clock domain.

Unless you really need to save a few gates, I would recommend you instead use the 2-phase handshake Pulse Synchronizer, as it can accept input pulses at twice the maximum rate. This 4-phase implementation exists for comparison and education.

Theory of Operation

We can't simply use a CDC Synchronizer to pass a pulse of unknown duration between clock domains of unknown relation, as the receiving clock may not be able to sample the pulse correctly. So, we solve this by:

This process then happens all over again with the cleared level signal, which does not generate a pulse in the receiving clock domain, until the system is back into its original rest state, ready to receive another input pulse. This process of raising a signal, waiting for a response to rise, then dropping the first signal, then waiting for the response to drop, is a 4-phase asynchronous handshake. It does not depends on the timing of the signals, only their sequence.

Input Pulse Frequency Limit

The time taken for the 4-phase handshake to complete puts an upper limit on the input pulse rate, that also depends on the receiving clock frequency. If we exceed this rate, input pulses will be lost, as the input pulse latch will have not been cleared yet.

At the upper limit, when the receiving clock frequency is fast enough to be "infinite" from the point of view of the sending clock (i.e.: the handshake response arrives soon enough within a single cycle of the sending clock to meet setup timing), then we only need to sum up the latencies on the sending clock side:

  1. Latching (or clearing) the input pulse: 1 cycle
  2. CDC into the receving clock domain: 0 cycles
  3. CDC back into the sending clock domain: 3 cycles (worst case)
  4. The input latch now clears, and the steps 1, 2, and 3 repeat.

Thus there must be at an absolute minimum 8 idle sending clock cycles between input pulses, or one input pulse every 9th sending clock cycle. (We can't overlap the clearing and latching, since clear has priority over input data in a Register.) Fortunately, we don't have to compute inter-pulse delays for every possible sending to receiving clock frequency ratio a system will encounter. We can instead signal ready on the sending side by noting when both the initial sending level and the returned response are low, denoting a system at rest ready for the next 4-phase handshake.

`default_nettype none

module CDC_Pulse_Synchronizer_4phase
    parameter CDC_EXTRA_DEPTH   = 0  // 0 or greater, if necessary
    input   wire    sending_clock,
    input   wire    sending_pulse_in,
    output  reg     sending_ready,

    input   wire    receiving_clock,
    output  wire    receiving_pulse_out

    initial begin
        sending_ready = 1'b0;

Capture the sending pulse into a level, and clear the latch once the level has passed into and returned from the receiving clock domain and the sending pulse has ended. This gating prevents a cycle of latch set/reset if the sending pulse is longer than the round-trip latency of level signal to and back from the receiving clock domain, causing a train of pulses in the receiving clock domain.

    wire sending_level;
    reg  clear_sending = 1'b0;
    wire level_response;

    always @(*) begin
        clear_sending = (level_response == 1'b1) && (sending_pulse_in == 1'b0);

        .RESET_VALUE (1'b0)
        .clock          (sending_clock),
        .clear          (clear_sending),
        .pulse_in       (sending_pulse_in),
        .level_out      (sending_level)

Pass the latched sending pulse to the receiving clock domain

    wire receiving_level;

        .receiving_clock    (receiving_clock),
        .bit_in             (sending_level),
        .bit_out            (receiving_level)

Now pass the synchronized level back to the sending clock domain to signal that the CDC is complete and to clear the latch.

        .receiving_clock    (sending_clock),
        .bit_in             (receiving_level),
        .bit_out            (level_response)

In parallel to all of the above, signal when both the sending level and the returned level from the receiving clock domain are low, indicating readiness for the next 4-phase handshake. An input pulse sent while ready is low will be lost.

    always @(*) begin
        sending_ready = (sending_level == 1'b0) && (level_response == 1'b0);

Finally, convert the receiving level to a pulse in the receiving clock domain

        .clock              (receiving_clock),
        .level_in           (receiving_level),
        .pulse_posedge_out  (receiving_pulse_out),
        // verilator lint_off PINCONNECTEMPTY
        .pulse_negedge_out  (),
        .pulse_anyedge_out  ()
        // verilator lint_on  PINCONNECTEMPTY


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