Ultra96 Zynq UltraScale+ Development Board

Ultra96™ is an Arm-based, Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+™ MPSoC development board based on the Linaro 96Boards specification. The 96Boards’ specifications are open and define a standard board layout for development platforms that can be used by software application, hardware device, kernel, and other system software developers. Ultra96 represents a unique position in the 96Boards community with a wide range of potential peripherals and acceleration engines in the programmable logic that is not available from other offerings.

Ultra96 boots from the provided Delkin 16 GB MicroSD card, pre-loaded with PetaLinux. Engineers have options of connecting to Ultra96 through a Webserver using integrated wireless access point capability or to use the provided PetaLinux desktop environment which can be viewed on the integrated Mini DisplayPort video output. Multiple application examples and on-board development options are provided as examples.

Ultra96 provides four user-controllable LEDs. Engineers may also interact with the board through the 96Boards-compatible low-speed and high-speed expansion connectors by adding peripheral accessories such as those included in Seeed Studio’s Grove Starter Kit for 96Boards.

Micron LPDDR4 memory provides 2 GB of RAM in a 512M x 32 configuration. Wireless options include 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 (provides both Bluetooth Classic and Low Energy (BLE)). UARTs are accessible on a header as well as through the expansion connector. JTAG is available through a header (external USB-JTAG required). I2C is available through the expansion connector.

Ultra96 provides one upstream (device) and two downstream (host) USB 3.0 connections. A USB 2.0 downstream (host) interface is provided on the high speed expansion bus. Two Microchip USB3320 USB 2.0 ULPI Transceivers and one Microchip USB5744 4-Port SS/HS USB Controller Hub are specified.

The integrated power supply generates all on-board voltages from an external 12V supply (available as an accessory).

[source]

i.MX8 Powered Nitrogen8m Single Board Computer

Boundary Devices is the company who launched the i.MX6 based Nitrogen6 in 2012, a globally adopted i.MX 6 SABRE Lite development board (now BD-SL-i.MX6). The company has recently announced the availability of its new Nitrogen8M SBC (Single Board Computer) that runs Linux or Android on a quad-core i.MX8M processor. The NItrogen8M will be the first commercially designed and tested i.MX 8M based SBC solution to be available to the embedded market.
Nitrogen8M

The i.MX 8M family of application processors from NXP is based on Arm® Cortex®-A53 and Cortex-M4 cores which provide industry-leading audio, voice and video processing capabilities. They offer support for video quality with full 4K UltraHD resolution and HDR (Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG), DSD512 audio capability, flexible memory options as demonstrated in the Nitrogen8, and many other features.

The NXP’s latest i.MX 8M Quad processor powers the Nitrogen8M, an upgrade from the i.MX7 based Nitrogen7. The i.MX 8MQ features 4 Cortex-A53 (1.5GHz) and 1 Cortex-M4F (266MHz) cores. The Nitrogen8M will come standard with 2GB of LPDDR4 of RAM with a 4GB version also available. It features a microSD Card slot, an optional 8GB eMMC version expandable to 128GB,  USB 3.0 for high-speed data communication and of course adhering to the industry latest trend. At 136.7 x 87mm, the Nitrogen8M is slightly larger than the i.MX7 based Nitrogen7 and the earlier i.MX6-based Nitrogen6.

Nitrogen8M includes the latest in network connectivity options to serve IoT applications that employ edge, cloud, and fog computing. The SBC comes with a Gigabit Ethernet port as well as the BD-SDMAC, a pre-certified WiFi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.1 module based on the QCA9377.  It also includes HDMI (4K@60fps) and 4-lane MIPI-DSI (1080p) display connections; two, 4-lane MIPI-CSI; headphone, microphone, and amplifier interfaces. Nitrogen8M will quickly find applications in the areas of smart-home, smart-speaker, industry, display applications, and many more.

The following are the specification of the Nitrogen8m SBC:

  • CPU — i.MX 8M Quad Core (x4 Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz; Cortex-M4 @ 266MHz)
  • RAM — 2GB LPDDR4 (4GB Optional)
  • Storage — micro SD slot or 8GB eMMC (upgradeable to 128GB)
  • NOR — 16MB (QSPI)
  • GPU — Vivante GC7000Lite
  • Camera — x2 4-lane MIPI-CSI
  • Display —
    • HDMI (w/CEC)
    • MIPI DSI
  • Wireless —
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 ac
    •  Bluetooth 4.1 BD-SDMAC Module (QCA9377)
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O –
    • 3x USB 3.0 Host ports
    • 1x USB 3.0 OTG port
    • 3x I2C
    • 1x SPI
    • 3x RS-232
    • 1x SD/MMC
    • 1x RTC + battery
    • 2x PCIe (1 Mini-PCI-E connector, one on expansion connector)
    • 1x JTAG
  • Power — 5V DC input
  • Operating Temperature — 0 to 70°C (Industrial Optional)

The Nitrogen8M is available now for pre-order, with boards beginning to ship in Spring 2018. Boundary Devices is offering the following three options:

Though the Nitrogen8M is launching with the i.MX 8M Quad processor, an i.MX 8M Dual and QuadLite versions are available on request. More information including a full list of specifications and availability can be found on the Nitrogen8M product page.

Imec and Cadence Tape Out Industry’s First 3nm Processor Chip

Nanoelectronics research institute IMEC and Cadence Design Systems have worked together to produce a tape-out for the industry’s first 64bit processor core as a test chip to be built in a nominal 3nm node. The tape-out project, geared toward advancing 3nm chip design, was completed using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and 193 immersion (193i) lithography-oriented design rules and Cadence tools.

Cadence and Imec have created and validated GDS files using a modified Cadence tool flow. It is based on a metal stack using a 21-nm routing pitch and a 42-nm contacted poly pitch created with data from a metal layer made in an earlier experiment. The Cadence tools used include the Innovus implementation system that makes use of massively parallel computation for the physical implementation system to achieve power, performance, and area (PPA) targets. The Genus synthesis tool provides RTL synthesis that addresses FinFET process node requirements.

IMEC utilized a standard industry’s 64-bit CPU for the design with a custom 3nm standard cell library. For the project, EUV and 193i lithography rules were tested to provide the required resolution, while providing PPA comparison under two different patterning assumptions.

Imec is starting work on the masks and lithography, initially aiming to use double-patterning EUV and self-aligned quadruple patterning (SAQP) immersion processes. Over time, Imec hopes to optimize the process to use a single pass in the EUV scanner. Ultimately, fabs may migrate to a planned high-numerical-aperture version of today’s EUV systems to make 3-nm chips.

Besides the finer features, the first two layers of 3-nm chips may use different metalization techniques and metals such as cobalt, said Ryoung-Han Kim, an R&D group manager at Imec. The node is also expected to use new transistor designs such as nanowires or nanosheets rather than the FinFETs utilized in today’s 16-nm and finer processes.

As process dimensions reduce to the 3nm node, interconnect variation becomes much more significant,” said An Steegen, executive vice president for semiconductor technology and systems at Imec. “Our work on the test chip has enabled interconnect variation to be measured and improved and the 3nm manufacturing process to be validated. Also, the Cadence digital solutions offered everything needed for this 3nm implementation. Due to Cadence’s well-integrated flow, the solutions were easy to use, which helped our engineering team stay productive when developing the 3nm rule set.

Imex and Cadence are achieving new milestones together with this new 3nm tape-out, which can transform the future of mobile designs at advanced nodes. For more information on EUV technology and 193i technology, see the article about it here.

Using the ST7735 1.8″ Color TFT Display with Arduino

1.8″ Colored TFT Display

Hi guys, welcome to today’s tutorial. Today, we will look on how to use the 1.8″ ST7735  colored TFT display with Arduino. The past few tutorials have been focused on how to use the Nokia 5110 LCD display extensively but there will be a time when we will need to use a colored display or something bigger with additional features, that’s where the 1.8″ ST7735 TFT display comes in.

The ST7735 TFT display is a 1.8″ display with a resolution of 128×160 pixels and can display a wide range of colors ( full 18-bit color, 262,144 shades!). The display uses the SPI protocol for communication and has its own pixel-addressable frame buffer which means it can be used with all kinds of microcontroller and you only need 4 i/o pins. To complement the display, it also comes with an SD card slot on which colored bitmaps can be loaded and easily displayed on the screen.

Using the ST7735 1.8″ Color TFT Display with Arduino – [Link]

Laser Beam Wireless Smartphone Chargers: The Next Big Thing

Cellphone chargers have been in existence for years and have grown from one stage to another. It started with the mobile phone traditional charger which had a USB interface, a DC converter, and a charging plug and now has expanded to a close-range inductive wireless charging. The commonly used inductive wireless charging is nice but limited, it still requires close contact with the charging pad making it offer little or no advantage to cable-based chargers. We have seen some potential long-range wireless chargers especially those from the PowerSpot, which in theory could charge up to 80 feet away. Among those technologies, charging with a laser beam is a possibility the research team from the University of Washington is evaluating.

Researchers from the UW’s (University of Washington), Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, have designed a laser system that can remotely charge your smartphones as quickly as a standard USB cable. They have embedded essential safety features which include a metal, flat-plate heat sink on the smartphone to dissipate excess heat from the laser, as well as a reflector based system to turn off the laser if a person tries to get in the way of the charging beam.

Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor at the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering said “We have designed, constructed and tested this laser-based charging system with a rapid-response safety mechanism, which ensures that the laser emitter will terminate the charging beam before a person comes into the path of the laser”. (more…)

IBM just unveiled the ‘world’s smallest computer’

by @ theverge.com

The computer is 1mm x 1mm, smaller than a grain of fancy salt, and apparently costs less than ten cents to manufacture. To be clear, the picture above is a set of 64 motherboards, each of which hold two of this tiny computer.

IBM claims the computer has the power of an x86 chip from 1990. That puts it exactly on the edge of enough power to run the original Doom (the original README.TXT for Doom says a 386 processor and 4MB of RAM is the minimum). Hopefully IBM will be more forthcoming with benchmarks in the next five years, and I’m looking forward to repurposing this chip’s LED as a one pixel display.

Introducing Project Fin: a board for fleet owners

Introducing Project Fin, a carrier board designed for the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 Lite.

It’s a carrier board that can run all the software that the Raspberry Pi can run, hardened for field deployment use cases, and adding some of the things we’ve seen our users needing the most. It includes 8/16/32/64 GB of on-board eMMC depending on the model, has dual-band connectivity for both 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi networks, can take an external antenna for WiFi and Bluetooth, and can accept power input from 6v to 30v (or 5v if you power through the HAT) via industrial power connectors.

It also comes with two special features. The first is a microcontroller that has its own Bluetooth radio and can operate without the Compute Module being turned on. This enables the Fin to perform well in real-time and low-power scenarios. The Compute Module, along with its interfaces, can be programmatically shut down and spawned back up via the microcontroller, which can access the RTC chip when the Compute Module is OFF for time-based operations. In addition, the Fin has a mini PCI express slot, which can be used to connect peripherals such as cellular modems. The Fin also has a SIM card slot to make it even easier to connect a cellular modem.

[source]

Powering Batteries With Protons – A Potential Disruption in the Energy Industry

Climate Change have been a crucial factor taken into consideration by the Australian researchers from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology before creating the first rechargeable proton battery. After considering all available options about cost and availability of the materials needed, the researchers in Melbourne decided to make a proton battery to meet up with the alarming increase of energy needs in the world.

Proton Battery

Lead researcher Professor John Andrews says, “Our latest advance is a crucial step towards cheap, sustainable proton batteries that can help meet our future energy needs without further damaging our already fragile environment. As the world moves towards inherently variable renewable energy to reduce greenhouse emissions and tackle climate change, requirements for electrical energy storage will be gargantuan”. The proton battery is one among many potential contributors towards meeting this enormous demand for energy storage. Powering batteries with protons has the potential to be more economical than using lithium ions, which are made from scarce resources. Carbon, which is the primary resource used in our proton battery, is abundant and cheap compared to both metal hydrogen storage alloys and the lithium needed for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Here’s how the battery works; During charging, protons generated during water splitting in a reversible fuel cell are conducted through the cell membrane and directly bond with the storage material with the aid of electrons supplied by the applied voltage, without forming hydrogen gas. In electricity supply mode, this process is reversed. Hydrogen atoms released from the storage lose an electron to become protons once again. These protons then pass back through the cell membrane where they combine with oxygen and electrons from the external circuit to reform water. In simpler terms, carbon in the electrode bonds with the protons produced whenever water is split via the power supply’s electrons. Those protons pass through the reversible fuel cell again to form water as it mixes with oxygen and then generates power.

According to Andrews, “Future work will now focus on further improving performance and energy density through the use of atomically-thin layered carbon-based materials such as graphene, with the target of a proton battery that is truly competitive with lithium-ion batteries firmly in sight.” With the kind of progress made, it might not be now, however, lithium-ion batteries might be put out of the market in the nearest future.

The team is looking to improve their research, ameliorate the battery’s performance, and exploit other better materials like graphene to further put this proton battery to its fullest potential. Developments like will be needed if we are going to create sustainable future especially with the ever rising cost and demand of Energy.

One thing is sure, the Energy Industry is going to be disrupted now or in the future, and this proton battery innovation could just be one of the potential ways.

Program Pi, BeagleBone and Other Linux SBCs On The Arduino Create Platform

We have seen the massive ecosystem the Arduino has built and established over the last few years and this has made developing with Arduino quite leisurely. It is way easier to solve a programming issue or hardware issue with Arduino unlike other hardware boards mostly due to its community.  Arduino Create is an online platform by the Arduino Team that simplifies building a project as a whole, without having to switch between many different tools to manage the aspects of whatever you are making.

Arduino Create

Arduino Create is excellent especially for people already used to build stuff with Arduino boards, but what about the likes of Raspberry Pi, BeagleBones, and other makers board? The Arduino boards are great, especially the famous Arduino Uno, but this board still have it’s limitations too. The Raspberry Pi/BeagleBone on the other hand could take some task that the 16MHz Arduino Uno will never dream of doing, but this will also require makers and developers to begin learning new hardware (could be daunting for beginners). But this is changing now, as Massimo Banzi, CTO, and Arduino co-founder announced an expansion of Arduino Create to support Arm boards which will provide optimized support for the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone boards.

Arduino Create now integrates Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone and other Linux based SBCs ─ all with IoT in mind. The introduction of ARM boards (Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, AAEON® UP² board, and Custom ARM boards) follows the vision of the Arduino’s goal for the Create platform. A vision to build a full featured IoT development platform for developing IoT (Internet of Things) devices quicker, faster, and easier than ever before, intended for Makers, Engineers or Professional Developers. Arduino Creates brings the Arduino framework and libraries to all these SBCs, officially, changing the development game in a big way.

“With this release, Arduino extends its reach into edge computing, enabling anybody with Arduino programming experience to manage and develop complex multi-architecture IoT applications on gateways,” stated Massimo Banzi in a press release. “This is an important step forward in democratizing access to the professional Internet of Things.”

Raspberry Pi and other Linux based ARM boards can now leverage the community surrounding the Arduino Create Platform that offers support for step-by-step guides, examples, code, schematics and even projects. Although the SBC support is brand new, resources surrounding SBCs is sure to grow, in short time. Import from or sharing with the community is easy too.

Multiple Arduino programs can run simultaneously on a Linux-based board and interact and communicate with each other, leveraging the capabilities provided by the new Arduino Connector. Moreover, IoT devices can be managed and updated remotely, independently from where they are located.

Getting started with Arduino Create for the Linux SBCs is quite easy and straightforward. One merely connect the Raspberry Pi, or whatever SBC of choice to a computer and connect it to the cloud via Arduino Connect or via USB using the Arduino Plugin (This will make possible the communication between the USB ports on your PC and your Arm®-based Platform.). To start developing, upload sketches (programs) from the browser to the SBC. No need to install anything to get the code to compile, everything is up-to-date. This may become a standard way to develop on these platforms.

Arduino Create currently works with any board that runs Debian OS; a case for the Raspberry Rasbian, which is a Debian OS. To get started building with the Arduino Create for your ARM-based boards, visit the Arduino Create site, and click on the Getting Started while setting the board of your choice.

How to make precision measurements on a nanopower budget

Gen Vansteeg @ ti.com discuss about precision measurement for nanopower scale using OPAMPs.

Heightened accuracy and speed in an operational amplifier (op amp) has a direct relationship with the magnitude of its power consumption. Decreasing the current consumption decreases the gain bandwidth; conversely, decreasing the offset voltage increases the current consumption.

Many such interactions between op amp electrical characteristics influence one another. With the increasing need for low power consumption in applications like wireless sensing nodes, the Internet of Things (IoT) and building automation, understanding these trade-offs has become vital to ensure optimal end-equipment performance with the lowest possible power consumption. In the first installment of this two-part blog post series, I’ll describe some of the power-to-performance trade-offs of DC gain in precision nanopower op amps.

How to make precision measurements on a nanopower budget – [Link]