Researchers Developed VO2 Based MEMS Mirror Actuator That Requires Very Low Power

A joint research by the US Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate and Michigan State University have developed micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) actuator based on smart materials, specifically vanadium dioxide (VO2). In the room temperature, Vanadium dioxide exhibits the Mott transition. It is a not-well-understood phenomenon known to occur in transition metal chalcogenides and transition metal oxides.

VO2 Based Mott - MEMS Mirror Actuator
VO2 Based Mott – MEMS Mirror Actuator

The research team was able to use VO2 thin films for making complex mirror support structures to create a programmable tilting mirror. Transition-metal oxides like VO2 require little energy to drive the transition and less than more conventional actuation technologies. This enables implementation of transition-metal oxide based MEMS in battery powered and mobile devices.

When an input voltage of 1.1V is applied, the mirror platform achieves the maximum vertical displacement of 75 microns. The average power consumption per mirror actuator is 6.5mW and the total power consumption is 26.1mW for the entire device. The Mott-MEMS actuator mirror showed vertical movements and tilt angles of 75 micrometers and 5.5 degrees, respectively.

While testing, vanadium dioxide (VO2) displayed hysteric behavior or memory effect. That means the current response to externally applied electrical force is dependent on the previous response. Such behavior will let the researchers predict its response nature for certain electrical signals and they can program the actuators to generate different types of responses.

Nelson Sepulveda, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan State University, said in a statement issued by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,

The actuation of such devices using smart phase-change materials represents a new operating principle that enables their programming and reduces power consumption.

The study opened a new door in the development of MEMS mirror actuation technology, which could incorporate the use of the hysteresis of smart materials like VO2 for programming tilt angles and vertical displacements in MEMS mirrors. The researchers are focusing on developing programmable MEMs mirrors and improving the design to achieve more precise control and larger movements.

SPI Isolation Board

The isolated SPI module is designed for applications, where SPI signals need to be transferred over longer distances than usually. It is based on Linear’s LTC6820. The board is designed as two layer stack-up, with GND plane on the bottom layer and signal traces and components at the top layer. Signals and power are supplied over standard 100mil (2.54mm) pitch IDC header.


  • Dimension: 40.005 mm x 30.099 mm (1.575″ x 1.185″)
  • 1 Mbps Isolated SPI Data Communication at 10m
  • 500 kbps Isolated SPI Data Communication at 100m
  • Galvanic Isolation Barrier using standard transformer (1500V)
  • Requires no software changes in most SPI systems
  • 3.5V to 15V power supply
  • SPI mode can be adjust via on-board jumpers
  • can act as Master or Slave (adjustable via jumper)
  • screw terminal for twisted pair cable (i.e. as in CAT5 Ethernet cable)

SPI Isolation Board – [Link]

20 Input AND Gate

SyncChannelBlog @ writes:

What to do when you have a partial reel of 74AHCT08 chips burning a hole in your pocket? Design a 20 Input AND gate of course.

20 Input AND Gate – [Link]

3 Phase AC Motor Controller

This project made using MC3PHAC from NXP Semiconductor. The project generates 6 PWM signals for 3 Phase AC Motor controller. It’s very easy to make professional VFD combining with Intelligent Power Module (IPM) or 3 Phase IGBT/MOSFET with Gate driver. The board provides 6 PWM signals for the IPM or IGBT Inverter and also brake signal. Also this board works in stand-alone mode and doesn’t require any software programming/coding.

The MC3PHAC is a high-performance monolithic intelligent motor controller designed specifically to meet the requirements for low-cost, variable-speed, 3-phase ac motor control systems. The device is adaptable and configurable, based on its environment. It contains all of the active functions required to implement the control portion of an open loop, 3-phase ac motor drive. One of the unique aspects of this board is that although it is adaptable and configurable based on its environment, it does not require any software development. This makes the MC3PHAC a perfect fit for customer applications requiring ac motor control but with limited or no software resources available.

Included in the MC3PHAC are protective features consisting of dc bus voltage monitoring and a system fault input that will immediately disable the PWM module upon detection of a system fault.

3 Phase AC Motor Controller – [Link]

Rechargeable Magnesium Batteries – Safer And Cheaper Than Li-ion Batteries

Researchers at the University of Houston reported in the journal Nature Communications the discovery of a new design that significantly improves the development of a battery based on magnesium. Magnesium batteries are considered as safe resources of power supply – unlike traditional lithium-ion batteries. They are not flammable or subject to exploding – but their ability to store energy is very limited. But the latest discovery of the new design for the battery cathode drastically increases the storage capacity.

Energy diagrams for the intercalation and diffusion of Mg2+ and MgCl+
Energy diagrams for the intercalation and diffusion of Mg2+ and MgCl+ in magnesium batteries

In order to make magnesium batteries, the magnesium-chloride bond must be broken before inserting magnesium into the host, and this is very hard to do. Hyun Deog Yoo, the first author of the paper, said,

First of all, it is very difficult to break magnesium-chloride bonds. More than that, magnesium ions produced in that way move extremely slowly in the host. That altogether lowers the battery’s efficiency.

The new battery technology stores energy by inserting magnesium monochloride into titanium disulfide, which acts as a host. By keeping the magnesium-chloride bond intact, the cathode showed much faster diffusion than traditional magnesium batteries.

The researchers managed to achieve a storage capacity density of 400 mAh/g – a quadruple increase compared with 100 mAh/g for earlier magnesium batteries. This achievement even overpowered the 200 mAh/g cathode capacity of commercially available lithium-ion batteries. Yoo, who is also the head investigator with the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, confirmed this fact.

The cell voltage of a magnesium cell is only 1V which is significantly less than a lithium-ion battery which has 3.7V cell voltage. Higher cell voltage and high cathode capacity made Li-ion batteries the standard. Li-ion batteries suffer from an internal structural breach, known as dendrite growth what makes them catch fire. Being an earth-abundant material, magnesium is less expensive than lithium and is not prone to dendrite growth.

The magnesium monochloride molecules are too large to be inserted into the titanium disulfide using conventional methods. The trick they developed is to expand the titanium disulfide to allow magnesium chloride to be inserted rather than breaking the magnesium-chloride bonds and inserting the magnesium alone. Retaining the magnesium-chloride bond doubled the charge the cathode could store. Yoo said,

We hope this is a general strategy. Inserting various polyatomic ions in higher voltage hosts, we eventually aim to create higher-energy batteries at a lower price, especially for electric vehicles.

More IoT with Compute Module 3 and Ubuntu Core OS

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, announced recently that its IoT OS, Ubuntu Core, is available on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 – the general-purpose compute product from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. This OS, the smallest Ubuntu ever, is the perfect host operating system for IoT devices and large-scale cloud container deployments. Actually, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 (CM3), is a micro-version of the Raspberry Pi 3. With its new features, it provides a simple and affordable single board computer.

In fact, this module is based on the Raspberry Pi 3 hardware, providing twice the RAM and roughly 10x the CPU performance of the original Module, launched in 2014. Even though CM3 is replacing the original Compute Module, but CM1 is still compatible with the new Compute Module IO Board V3, and remains available for sale.

CM3 takes care of the complexity of routing out the pins, the high speed RAM interface and core power supply. Also, it allows a simple carrier board to provide what is necessary for external interfaces and form factor. The module uses a standard DDR2 SODIMM form factor, sockets by several manufacturers, are easily available, and are inexpensive.

Software Defined Everything?

As a vision for Canonical, The CM3 with Ubuntu Core allows developers to create new IoT products and devices. As well as offering a potentially smaller and more efficient replacement for some devices that contain larger Raspberry Pi boards.

“Gaining official support for Ubuntu Core is highly significant for our Compute Module 3. It opens up a huge community of developers keen to leverage Ubuntu’s particular advantages in the IoT world; its resource-efficient footprint, versatility, and industry leading security benefits,” says Eben Upton, CEO at Raspberry Pi.

Finally, more comprehensive information on the Compute Modules is available in the this hardware documentation, and includes a datasheet and schematics. In addition, you can check this step-by-step tutorial to install Core OS on your Compute Module 3 by Ubuntu Developer.

2.5A 2Phase Micro-Stepping Stepper Motor Driver

2 Phase stepping motor driver is a tiny board based on STK682-010 hybrid IC from ON semiconductor and it can deliver current up to 2.5Amp and has supply up to 32V DC. It has multiple micro-stepping: Full step, 1/2th Step, 1/4th Step, 1/8th Step, 1/16th Step, 1/32th Step, 1/64th Step, 1/128th Step. PR1 trimmer potentiometer is provided to set the decay, 3.5V Slow Decay, 1.1V to 3.1V Mixed Decay, 0.8V-1V Fast Decay, and PR2 Trimmer Potentiometer provided to set the Current.


  • Supply Voltage Range 9-32V DC
  • Motor Load 2.5A Continues
  • On Board LM317 Regulator For 5V DC Logic Supply
  • J1, J2, J3 Jumpers for Micro-Stepping
  • PR2 Current Adjust Trimmer Potentiometer
  • PR1 FDT Adjust Trimmer Potentiometer To Adjust Decay
  • Built In Automatic Half Current Maintenance energizing function
  • Built in Over Current Protection Circuit (Within IC)
  • Built Thermal Shutdown Circuit (Within IC)

2.5A 2Phase Micro-Stepping Stepper Motor Driver – [Link]

PCB123® launches access to millions of cloud-based symbols & footprints

Designers can now search SnapEDA’s vast component library directly in PCB123

MULINO, OR and SAN FRANCISCO, CA (September 13, 2017) — Today, Sunstone Circuits, creators of the free PCB design tool, PCB123, and SnapEDA, the Internet’s first parts library for circuit board design, are launching a new integration that allows designers to search for digital models directly inside the PCB123 design environment.

Designers have traditionally wasted days creating digital models for their designs. This process is tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone. With today’s release of PCB123 Version 5.6, designers can now search and download free, cloud-based symbols and footprints directly during design capture and layout, significantly boosting design productivity.

“For forty years, PCB designers have frittered away countless hours defining parts because there simply wasn’t a workable, affordable source for accurate, ready-made parts. In fact, surveys show that most professional designers spend an average of 30-35% of their design time just making new parts definitions before they can even get started,” said Nolan Johnson, CAD & EDA Product Marketing Manager at Sunstone Circuits.

“SnapEDA has disrupted that dynamic in an easy-to-use, no-cost utility, and PCB123 is proud to be bringing true in-tool integration of SnapEDA’s parts search functions to our loyal users – in a free PCB CAD tool, no less,” Johnson added.

PCB123 is a free, full-function PCB CAD tool, comprised of a schematic editor, physical layout editor, 3-dimensional mechanical previews, and BOM editor. By augmenting the tool with cloud-based libraries, designers will get real-time access to new symbols & footprints added to SnapEDA’s catalog, as well the ability to request parts they need for their designs with InstaPart, the company’s popular 24 hour parts request service.

“PCB123 has just released the industry’s first pre-installed integration of a cloud-based parts library. Their impressive solution will benefit PCB designers with access to vetted parts models that will shave days off design time, and benefit the world through faster innovation,” said Natasha Baker, Founder & CEO of SnapEDA.

All new models created by SnapEDA conform to the latest IPC standards (IPC-7351B) and are vetted with its patent-pending verification technology. Design content is available for millions of electronic components, enabled by SnapEDA’s proprietary, automated library creation, translation, and verification technology.

SST26WF064C – Low-voltage 64-Megabit SuperFlash® Memory Device From Microchip

Microchip introduced a new 64Mbit Serial Quad I/O memory device—SST26WF064C with proprietary SuperFlash® technology. The SST26WF064C writes with a single power supply of 1.65-1.95V and significantly lower power consumption. This makes it ideal for wireless, mobile, and battery-powered applications.

Microchip SST26WF064C Flash Memory Chip
Microchip SST26WF064C Flash Memory Chip

This 64Mbit memory device also features DTR or Dual Transfer Rate technology. DTR lets the user access data of the chip on both rising and falling edges of the clock, reducing overall data access time and power consumption significantly. The SST26WF064C utilizes a 4-bit multiplexed I/O serial interface to boost performance while maintaining the tiny form factor of standard serial flash devices.

Microchip’s high-performance CMOS SuperFlash technology provides the fastest chip erase time, consequently, reduces overall power consumption. It also improves performance and reliability of the memory chip. The SST26WF064C’s typical chip-erase time is 35-50 milliseconds, where other chips take nearly 30 seconds to be completely erased.

This chip combines a hardware controlled RESET function which is not present in common flash chips available in the market due to their limited pin count. In SST26WF064C, the user can program the HOLD pin to use for the RESET function. This feature lets the host microcontroller to reset the chip by sending a pulse to it.

SST26WF064C supports full command-set compatibility with traditional Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) protocol. Operating at frequencies reaching 104 MHz, the SST26WF064C enables minimum latency execute-in-place (XIP) capability without the need for code shadowing on a SRAM. To learn about code shadowing, read this article.

The key features of the SST26WF064C are:

  • Single Voltage Read and Write Operations – 1.65-1.95V
  • Serial Interface Architecture
  • High-Speed Clock Frequency (104 MHz max.)
  • Burst Modes
  • Superior Reliability
  • Low Power Consumption
  • Fast Erase Time
  • Flexible Erase Capability
  • Suspend Program or Erase operation to access another block/sector
  • Software and Hardware Reset mode
  • Software Protection
  • Security ID
  • One-Time Programmable (OTP) 2KByte Secure ID
  • 64 bit unique, factory pre-programmed identifier
  • User-programmable area

To learn more about this memory chip or to purchase some, visit

TinyFPGA Programmer

A dirt cheap open hardware USB-JTAG board designed to program TinyFPGA A1 and A2 boards. by Luke Valenty @

One of the goals of the TinyFPGA boards is to make FPGAs cheaper to use. The #TinyFPGA A-Series boards are the first TinyFPGA boards and are designed to be the least expensive. As such, they do not include a built-in USB interface as that would increase the cost and complexity too much. Instead they rely on JTAG programmers.

TinyFPGA Programmer – [Link]