About Rik

Myself Rik and I am founder of Riktronics. I study Electronics and Communication Engineering in IIE. My hobby is playing with electronics and making various projects, mainly about embedded systems. Love to do coding, and making tutorials about electronics/programming. Contact me in any need at abhra0897@gmail.com My blog : riktronics.wordpress.com

Imec Invented Unique Cost-effective Cooling For High-Performance Chips

Imec, the distinguished Belgian research center has invented a new and cost-effective method of cooling chips. This achievement can be an important innovation to tackle the ever-increasing cooling demands of high-performance 3D chips and systems.

Present powerful electronic systems have high cooling demands for integrated semiconductor chips. Conventional solutions operate with various passive (or occasionally active) heat sinks. The main bottleneck in the heat-transfer path occurs at the interface between the semiconductor and the heat sink. It is proven that direct cooling on the back of the chip is more efficient, but current microchannel solutions do more harm than good. It leads to stress and a temperature gradient across the chip surface. Thus a new way of cooling in that method was much needed.

Imec's cost-effective cooling solution for high performance chips
Imec’s cost-effective cooling solution for high-performance chips

The ideal solution is to use an impingement-based cooler with coolant outlets distributed across the chip’s surface area. This system directs the liquid perpendicular to the chip surface and ensures the liquid is at the same temperature throughout. It also reduces contact time between the coolant and the chip. Until now, cooling solutions based on this principle have the disadvantage of being very expensive. In some other alternative implementations, the nozzle diameter and necessary fabrication techniques are not compatible with chip packaging processes.

Imec has developed a new impingement chip cooler that uses polymers instead of silicon, to achieve a cost-effective fabrication. Moreover, imec’s solution features nozzles of only 300µm diameter, made by high-resolution stereolithography 3D printing. The use of 3D printing allows customization of the nozzle pattern design to match the heat map and the fabrication of complex internal structures. Moreover, 3D printing allows to efficiently printing the whole structure in one part, reducing production cost and time.

Schematic of multi-jet cooler
Schematic of multi-jet cooler

Our new impingement chip cooler is actually a 3D printed ‘showerhead’ that sprays the cooling liquid directly onto the bare chip,” explains Herman Oprins, senior engineer at imec. “3D prototyping has improved in resolution, making it available for realizing microfluidic systems such as our chip cooler. 3D printing enables an application-specific design, instead of using a standard design.

Imec’s impingement cooler achieves a high cooling efficiency, with a chip temperature increase of less than 15°C per 100W/cm2 for a coolant flow rate of 1 l/min. Moreover, it features a pressure drop as low as 0.3 bar, because of the smart internal cooler design. It outperforms benchmark conventional cooling solutions in which the thermal interface materials alone already cause a 20-50°C temperature increase. It is a highly efficient and cost-effective fabrication. Imec’s cooling solution is much smaller compared to existing solutions, matching the footprint of the chip package enabling chip package reduction and more efficient cooling.

RAK8213 – The New Mini-PCIe Card For NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1

A China-based manufacturer called RAK Wireless has released the RAK833 LoRaWAN gateway module a couple months back. This has already been used hugely to create a gateway for ‘The Things Network’. Now they’re back with the new RAK8213, an NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1 module in the same mini-PCIe form factor as the RAK833. The RAK mini-PCIe card is constructed around the Quectel BG96 module, which provides both NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1 along with GNSS (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, or BeiDou) support.

The RAK8213 mini-PCIe Module
The RAK8213 mini-PCIe Module

The mini-PCIe form factor is often associated with laptop computers, but recently we’ve started seeing that some single-board computers targeted at the maker market are also featuring this form. The Pine H64 single board computer is an example of it. Besides that, we’ve also noticed the rise of other mini-PCIe modules, such as the UP AI Core, or the PicoEVB, also aimed for makers.

This card can be added to netbooks/notebooks or routers in the mini-PCIe socket. It can be used for remote monitoringsmart meter reading, and so on. The user manual for this card basically explains how the user can send AT commands over USB or UART to the card in Windows, and how to set up the board with Hologram IoT SIM card.

RAK8213 is not the first NB-IoT/eMTC mPCIe card on the market. There are also some SIMCom SIM7000 based modules for about $30. However, it should be noted that the new RAK8213 works globally but SIM7000A / SIM7000C / SIM7000E work in specific regions, namely America, China and Europe.

RAK8213 mini PCIe card key specifications:

  • Wireless Connectivity Module: Quectel BG96 with LTE Cat. M1 (eMTC), LTE Cat. NB1 (NB-IoT), EGPRS, and GNSS
  • Global bands support :  
    • FDD-LTE – B1/ B2/ B3/ B4/ B5/ B8/ B12/ B13/ B18/ B19/ B20/ B26/ B28
    • TDD-LTE – B39 (for Cat M1 only)
    • EGPRS – 850/900/1800/1900Mhz
  • Max Data Rate: Cat M1: 375 kbps (UL/DL); Cat NB1: 32 kbps DK, 70 kbps (UL)
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro SIM slot
    •  u.FL connectors for cellular and GNSS
    •  mPCIe connector with USB 2.0, I2C, UART, and PCM
  • Misc: LEDs for network and power status
  • Dimensions: 51 x 30.1 mm

RAK8213 mPCIe card is sold for $39.99 plus shipping on Aliexpress, and optional accessories are also offered for $10, and a Hologram SIM card for $7. More information about the RAK 8213, the data sheet and schematics for the board are available at RAK Wireless site, along with a user manual for the evaluation board and the card.

Single Atom Transistor With Ultra-low Power Consumption

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) researchers in Germany have developed a single-atom transistor that can reduce the power consumption of electronic systems significantly. The device is being developed by Professor Thomas Schimmel and his team at the Institute of Applied Physics (APH). The single-atom transistor switches electrical current by controlled repositioning of a single atom in a gel electrolyte. The device works at room temperature and consumes a very small amount of energy. It also has the potential of opening up an entirely new perspective for information technology.

Single Atom Transistor
Single Atom Transistor developed by the KIT researchers

Prof Schimmel, who conducts research at the APH, the Institute of Nanotechnology (INT), and the Material Research Center for Energy Systems (MZE) of KIT said,

This quantum electronics element enables switching energies smaller than those of conventional silicon technologies by a factor of 10,000,

Earlier this year, Professor Schimmel, who is recognized as the pioneer of single-atom electronics, was appointed Co-Director of the Center for Single-Atom Electronics and Photonics established jointly by KIT and ETH Zurich.

The experts produced two-minute metallic contacts with a gap as wide as a single metal atom. The gap was tested with a source-drain current ranging from 1 to 8 µA. With the help of an electrically controlled pulse, they positioned a single silver atom into this gap and closed the circuit. Just when the silver atom is removed from the gap, the circuit is interrupted and the flow of current is stopped. Thus it acts just like a switch and can be used for high-speed electronic switching circuits.

The world’s smallest transistor switches current through the controlled reversible movement of a single atom. It’s also a contrary to conventional quantum electronics components. The single-atom transistor has a broad range of working temperature from near absolute zero to the room temperature. This can be a breakthrough for future electronics.

The single-atom transistor is made of metal only without any semiconductors. This results in extremely low electric voltages and, hence, an extremely low energy consumption. Previous devices of this category developed at KIT have used a liquid electrolyte, but this latest version uses a solid electrolyte.

The gel electrolyte was produced by gelling an aqueous silver electrolyte with pyrogenic silicon dioxide combines the advantages of a solid with the electrochemical properties of a liquid. In this way, both safety and handling of the single-atom transistor are improved.

MCC 118 – 100kS/s Stackable DAQ HAT For Raspberry Pi

Measurement Computing Corporation (MCC) has released a $99 measurement DAQ (Data acquisition system) HAT for the Raspberry Pi. It is highly optimized for single point and waveform voltage. MCC claims their board allows greater accuracy with high resolution. It has much faster sample rates than many other DAQ HAT add-ons for the Raspberry Pi. The new “MCC 118” provides 8x single-ended, 12-bit, ±10 V analog inputs with sample rates up to 100 kS/s.

MCC 118 with Pi and with four-board stacked configuration
MCC 118 with Pi and with four-board stacked configuration

Maximum of eight MCC HATs can be stacked onto one Raspberry Pi, providing up to 64 channels of data and a maximum total throughput of 320 kS/s. Multiple boards can be synchronized using external clock and trigger input options.

The MCC 118 is the first in a series of MCC DAQ HATs. More of DAQ boards are due by the end of the year. The MCC home page mentions a “coming soon” Voltage Output/DIO HAT with two analog output channels and eight digital I/O. Users will be able to mix and match future MCC DAQ HATs with the MCC 118 on a single stack.

The MCC 118 is provided with an external scan clock and an external digital trigger input. The board has a dimension of 65 x 56.5 x 12mm. It has a 0 to 55°C temperature range and is powered at 3.3V from the Raspberry Pi via the GPIO connector.

The MCC 118 comes with an open source, Raspbian-based MCC DAQ HAT Library available for C/C++ and Python. API and hardware documentation is provided with the shipping unit. The user also gets an array of sample programs including a C/C++ based DataLogger and a Python-based web server and IFTTT web service.

The MCC 118 is now available for $99. More information can be found on the MCC 118 announcement and product page.

NanoPi M4 – RK3399 Based RPi Clone SBC Costs $65 Only

FriendlyElec has launched the NanoPi M4. It is one of the smallest, most affordable Rockchip RK3399 based SBC yet. The NanoPi M4 has essentially the same layout as the latest Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and has all of its stand out features. Aside from the different processor, this is a very close resemblance of the RPi 3 B+ except for the lack of PoE support on the GbE port.

On the other hand, it has a faster, native GbE port instead of the RPi 3 B+’s USB-based connection. Like the B+, it has dual-channel 802.11ac on the WiFi/Bluetooth module.

Despite the performance improvements on the RPi 3 B+, the Rockchip RK3399 beats it in speed tests. It also defeats the vast majority of Arm SoCs. The RK3399 has dual Cortex-A72 cores clocked to up to 2.0GHz and 4x Cortex-A53 cores at 1.5GHz. There’s also a high-end Mali-T864 GPU and a VPU that supports 4K VP9 and 4K 10-bit H265/H264 60fps decoding.

The NanoPi M4 is intended for applications including machine learning, AI, deep learning, robots, industrial control, industrial cameras, advertisement machines, game machines, and blockchain. OS support for this board includes Android 7.1.2 and three Ubuntu-based Linux distributions: Lubuntu 16.04, FriendlyCore 18.04 (Ubuntu Core), and FriendlyDesktop 18.04.

Specifications for the NanoPi M4:

  • Processor:
    • Rockchip RK3399 (2x Cortex-A72 at up to 2.0GHz,
    • 4x Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5GHz); Mali-T864 GPU
  • Memory:                                                            
    • 2GB or 4GB LPDDR3 RAM (dual-channel)
    • eMMC socket
    • MicroSD slot for up to 128GB
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz) with Bluetooth 4.1;
    • 2x IPX antenna connectors
  • Networking: Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Media:
    • HDMI 2.0a port (with audio and HDCP 1.4/2.2) for up to 4K at 60Hz
    • MIPI-DSI (4-lane) with MIPI-CSI co-lay
    • 1x or 2x 4-lane MIPI-CSI (up to 13MP) with dual ISP support; (2nd CSI available via DSI)
    • 3.5mm analog audio I/O jack
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 3.0 host ports
    • USB 3.0 Type-C port (USB 2.0 OTG or power input)
    • Serial debug 4-pin header
  • Expansion:
    • 40-pin RPi compatible header — 3x 3V/1.8V I2C, 3V UART,
    • 3V SPI, SPDIF_TX, up to 8x 3V GPIOs, 1.8V 8-ch. I2S
  • Power: DC 5V/3A input or USB Type-C
  • Operating temperature: -20 to 70℃
  • Dimensions: 85 x 56mm; 8-layer PCB
  • OS Support: Android 7.1.2; Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit); FriendlyCore 18.04 (64-bit), FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit)

The NanoPi M4 with 2GB RAM is available now for $65 (for first 300 units), otherwise, the price is $75. The 4GB version costs $105. More information may be found at FriendlyElec’s NanoPi M4 shopping pagewiki, and GitHub page.

Tachyon – 120MHZ 32-bit Arduino Compatible Microcontroller

The Tachyon is a new lightning-fast open-source Arduino Zero-compatible board developed by Rabid Prototypes, currently on Kickstarter for funding. It features a 32-bit ARM M4F processor running at 120MHz and contains 128K of RAM. The Tachyon’s pinout is nearly identical to both the Neutrino and Arduino Zero, making it a go-with replacement for practically any project using either one.

Arduino Zero-compatible Tachyon
Arduino Zero-compatible Tachyon

The Tachyon is an open source board. The users will be provided with the Eagle cad files and schematics with which they’re free to modify and integrate it into their own designs, without ever paying any extra to the real developers.

Programming this board is going to be easy like most Arduinos. A user can simply plug the board into the PC using a micro USB cable and program it with the Arduino IDE as usual. The Tachyon ships with the Zero bootloader installed.

To create the Tachyon it was needed to make only a few minor tweaks to the Neutrino’s layout to get the new chip to work with it. Specifically, the values of two capacitors were changed, and one pin, which the Zero broke out for an RX LED, but which was not broken out on the Neutrino, was re-purposed for the chip’s internal switching regulator.

Most importantly, the SAMD51 is so similar to the SAMD21, most libraries written for the Zero should work on the Tachyon without any modification. So it has the potential to be quite effective and smart Arduino Zero or Neutrino substitute board.

Technical Specs for Tachyon:

  • Microcontroller: Microchip ATSAMD51G18A ARM Cortex M4F @120MHz
  • Operating voltage: 3.3V
  • I/O pin limits: 3.3V, 7 mA
  • Digital I/O pins: 14 w/ 12 PWM
  • Analog input pins: 6 12-bit ADC channels
  • Analog output pins: 2 10-bit DACs
  • Flash memory: 256 KB
  • SRAM: 128 KB
  • Voltage regulator: 3.7-5.5V input / 3.3V, 300mA output
  • Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.7″ (36mm x 18mm)

This board is currently available at Kickstarter. Early shipment to the backers will start from October this year. More information can be found on their Kickstarter page.

The Fishino Piranha – A Development Board With 120MHz 32bit Microcontroller

A few weeks ago Open Electronics announced their new “Fishino Piranha” board. It is one of the first boards to imitate the Arduino MKR. The Fishino Piranha follows with the release of their Uno-inspired “Fishino 32” board, which was released at the start of last year.

The Piranha has the same 32-bit Microchip PIC32MX as the previous board with a MIPS core clocked at 120MHz. It comes with 128 kB RAM and 512 kB Flash memory and has the same form factor as the new Arduino MKR boards. The layout of the Piranha’s headers is more or less identical to that of MKR1000. Only with the exception of the analog output (DAC). There is no DAC present on the PIC32MX processor used here in this board.

The Fishino Piranha
The Fishino Piranha Development Board

The Piranha also has native USB support, both host and client, an RTC, MicroSD card slot, and Wi-Fi onboard provided using an ESP8266 module. The board is designed to be powered from the micro-USB socket, or through the external power source. Otherwise with a battery charger, based on the Microchip MCP73831, for the LiPo built-in. While the board uses 3.3V internal logic, the pins are tolerant up to 5V. Thus considering no risk of damaging the board with 5V peripherals.

The board is fully Arduino-compatible and can be developed either using the FishIDE, which Open Electronics has created as an alternative to the traditional Arduino IDE, or directly from the Arduino development environment as usual.

Highlighted features of the Fishino Piranha:

  • High-performance PIC32MX controller
  • high performance, with 120 MHz clocks, 512 KBytes flash and 128 KBytes RAM
  • WiFi module on board
  • MicroSD card reader on board
  • RTC module on board
  • High performance switching power supply
  • Can be powered by a single cell LiPo battery, with onboard charger
  • Can be powered off by software and awaken by external events
  • Pinout and size compatible with Arduino MKR1000

The Fishino Piranha board is available now at around $42 from the Open Electronics store. More details of the board design can be found in their announcement page.

The UP AI Core – Mini-PCIe Board For Machine Learning

Popularized as the “first embedded ultra-compact artificial intelligence processing card,” and built around the same Intel Movidius™ Myriad™ 2 2450 VPU as Intel’s own Neural Compute Stick. UP’s AI Core is a mini-PCI Express module that enables Artificial Intelligence on the Edge.

The UP AI Core board
The UP AI Core board

The UP AI Core has 512MB of DDR SDRAM and 4 GB of onboard storage. It is a standard looking PCI-e board measuring 51×30 mm. The onboard Movidius™ chip supports the use of both TensorFlow and Caffe frameworks, both are symbolic math libraries used for machine learning applications such as neural networks.

In order to support the board, the host computer needs to have at least 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of free storage space. Right now, only 64-bit x86 boards running Ubuntu 16.04 are fully supported. None the less that is an only requirement for the Movidius™ VPU rather than something essential in the design of the UP board itself.

However, there’s been a lot of effort since the release of the Movidius™ Neural Compute Stick to get it working on the Raspberry Pi. It’s possible now that it can be used with an Arm-based board with an appropriate PCI-e slot like the Pine H64. But without official support, it is limited to an extent.

The UP AI Core is now available for $69. It is compatible with the UP Core Plus but should work with any single-board computer that has a mini-PCIe interface. Although the user has to be careful about toolchain support for the Movidius™ chip.

Specifications for the AI Core

  • SoC: Intel® Movidius™ Myriad™ 2 VPU 2450
  • Supported Frameworks: TensorFlow, Caffe
  • Form Factor: Mini PCI-Express
  • Dimension: 51 X 30 mm
  • System Requirements:
    • x86_64 computer running Ubuntu 16.04
    • Available mPCI-E slot
    • 1GB RAM
    • 4GB free storage space

More information about the board can be found at UP AI Core’s Order Page.

SinoVoip Unveils Open-spec Banana Pi BPI-P2 Zero SBC

SinoVoIP is going to launch their inexpensive Raspberry Pi Zero compatible, Allwinner H2+ powered board Banana Pi-P2 Zero. This is going to be the successor to Banana Pi M2 Zero. The new Banana Pi-P2 Zero combines support for PoE (Power-over-Ethernet) as well as a CSI camera interface.

Sinovoip Banana Pi BPI-P2 Zero
Sinovoip Banana Pi BPI-P2 Zero

The Banana Pi BPI-P2 Zero is almost identical to last year’s $21 Banana Pi BPI-M2 Zero with a few significant enhancements. The board attaches 8GB eMMC storage, as well as a 10/100 Ethernet port with Power-over-Ethernet support available via an optional PoE module. The new board doubles the weight to 30 grams and extends the smaller dimension by 22.5mm giving it a 65 x 52.5mm footprint.

Other features are almost the same as the M2 Zero, which itself is an emulation of a Raspberry Pi Zero W. The P2 Zero board can run Linux and Android on a 1.2GHz, quad -A7 Allwinner H2+, which is like an Allwinner H3, but with HD instead of 4K video support. The SoC integrates a Mali400 MP2 GPU.

The Banana Pi BPI-P2 Zero comes with 512MB DDR3, a microSD card slot, and a WiFi/Bluetooth module. Other features include MIPI-CSI, 40-pin RPi expansion, a mini-HDMI port, a USB 2.0 host port, and a power-only micro-USB OTG port.

Banana Pi BPI-P2 Zero specifications:

  • SoC: Allwinner H2+ quad-core Arm Cortex A7 processor with Mali-400MP GPU.
  • Memory:
    • 512MB DDR3 SDRAM.
    • 8GB eMMC flash
    • Micro SD card slot
  • Video Output: mini HDMI port
  • Connectivity:                    
    • 10/100M Ethernet with PoE support
    •  WiFi & Bluetooth via AP6212 module
  • The camera I/F: CSI camera interface
  • USB: 1x USB OTG port
  • Expansion:
    • 40-pin GPIO header with UART, SPI, I2C, etc…
    • 3-pin UART header for serial console access
  • Power Supply:                    
    • 5V/2A via micro USB port
    • Power-over-Ethernet (PoE)
  • Dimensions: 65 x 52.5mm
  • Supported OS: Linux, Android

No pricing or availability information was provided for the Banana Pi BPI-P2. More information may be found on SinoVoip’s Banana Pi BPI-P2 Zero wiki page.

Seco’s New i.MX8M And i.MX8Quad Based Modules Run Linux

Seco Embedded Creators have launched the i.MX8M based Q7-C25 and i.MX8Quad based Q7-C26. Both can run Linux and Android, and are available in 0 to 60°C and -40 to 85°C models. The 5V modules have many similar features, but the Q7-C26 based on the more powerful, up to hexacore i.MX8Quad adds some extras such as SATA III support.

Seco Q7-C25
Seco Q7-C25

The Q7-C25 utilizes NXP’s dual- or quadcore, 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 i.MX8M. It facilitates a 266MHz Cortex-M4 MCU and a Vivante GC7000Lite GPU. Unlike the Quad and Dual models, the quad-core i.MX8M QuadLite model lacks a VPU.

On the other hand, the Q7-C26 features the more powerful i.MX8Quad, which is available in quad A53 configurations, but clocked to a lower 1.26GHz. All three i.MX8Quad Quad models also accommodate dual Cortex-M4 MCUs and dual GC7000Lite GPUs. The mid-range i.MX8QuadPlus model combines 1x Cortex-A72 core and the high-end QuadMax adds 2x -A72 cores.

Seco Q7-C26
Seco Q7-C26

Both the Q7-C25 and Q7-C26 ship with onboard LPDDR4-3200 RAM, but only the Q7-C25 lists a quantity, which is up to 4GB. They both offer presumably optional eMMC and QSPI flash onboard, but no quantities are listed. Only the Q7-C26 supports SATA III, but it’s a factory option swap-out for one of the 2x PCIe x1 interfaces provided by both modules. Both COMs also combine a GbE controller.

Both the Q7-C25 and Q7-C26 support up to 4096 x 2160p60 video output with HDR via an HDMI 2.0A port. On the Q7-C26 DisplayPort 1.3 is supported, and the Q7-C26 also supports HDCP 2.2. Both modules also provide an HD-ready LVDS interface, I2S audio, and a MIPI-CSI camera interface.

The Q7-C25 supports 5x USB ports compared to 6x on the Q7-C26. Yet on the Q7-C25, two of those are USB 3.0 compared to one on the Q7-C26, which is the only one to support a USB OTG port. Common features on both modules are 2x I2C, 8x GPIO, and single UART, CAN, SPI, and SD connections. They both supply a watchdog and power management signals and the Q7-C26 also features a boot select signal.

Both modulessupport the same 3.5-inch form-factor, cross-platform (Arm and x86) CQ7-A42 carrier board. Another option is a Q7 Dev Kit 2.0 that offers a different and much larger CQ7-A30 board with more legacy connections.

No pricing or availability information was provided for the  Q7-C25 and Q7-C26 modules or related carrier boards and kits as they are currently under development. More information may be found in the following Seco product pages for Q7-C25Q7-C26CQ7-A42 and Q7 Dev Kit 2.0.