IC category

Atmel ATmega8 – A World-Famous Microcontroller Created By Two Annoyed Students

AVR is a family of microcontrollers developed by Atmel beginning in 1996. These are modified Harvard architecture 8-bit RISC single-chip microcontrollers. The Atmel AVR core combines a rich instruction set with 32 general purpose working registers. Atmel’s ATmega8 comes from the AVR line of microcontroller and it is a gem of the modern maker movement. It is used as the heart of the first generation of the Arduino board to be widely adopted by electronics hobbyists. Countless creative projects are designed with those cheap yet powerful chips.

ATmega8 was originally developed in the early 1990s by two students at the Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyAlf-Egil Bogen, and Vegard Wollan. Microcontrollers are different from microprocessors in terms of built-in memory and I/O peripherals. They typically have their own onboard program memory and RAM, rather than relying on external chips for these resources.

When Bogen and Wollan were in university, they faced trouble in following the steep learning curve of the complex instruction sets for microprocessors. Most of the processors used in those days were CISC (Complex instruction set computer) based. They wanted to design a RISC (reduced instruction set computer) based microcontroller with an aim in mind to create something that would be easy to program and relatively powerful. Bogen explained in a YouTube video,

I found them very hard to us. The learning curve to get to use them was hard; I found the development tools crappy. And also I saw that the performance of the products was not where I wanted it to be.

Alf-Egil Bogen – one of the creators of the AVR core

Computers, that are typically used on the day-to-day basis, use Von Neumann architecture. In this architecture, programs are loaded into the RAM first and then executed from the same. AVR uses the Harvard architecture, in which program memory and working RAM are kept separate, thus enables faster execution of instructions. The first prototype of AVR used ROM, which is not re-writeable, as the program memory. Later Atmel added easily programmable (and reprogrammable) flash memory to the processor core. The first commercial AVR chip, the AT90S8515, was released in 1996. Wollan says in a video,

instructions and stuff were things we were actually thinking of from the very beginning to make it efficient and easy to use from a high-level point of view

Vegard Wollen – another creator of AVR

CH340E, A New Small Serial to USB Chip

WCH, a Chinese integrated circuits manufacturer, has just released a new serial to USB chip called CH340E. Unlike other CH340 chips, it doesn’t require an external crystal and also needs less PCB space and BOM.

CH340 is a 3x3mm tiny chip comes in MSOP10 package and has 10 pins. Although it is smaller than other alternatives, it is a little more expensive than them. But considering other components and PCB size needed, the total cost of the BOM may be lower.

According to Electrodragon, it needs only two external parts to build a full function circuit. They also tested it with up to 150,000 baud rate to flash an ESP8266 chip. Most features and technical specifications are the some for CH340 family including CH340E, so the same drivers will work with it.

CH340E features

  • Full-speed USB device interface, compatible with USB V2.0.
  • Emulation standard serial port used to upgrade the original serial peripherals or add additional serial port via USB.
  • Computer applications under the Windows operating system serial port are fully compatible, without modification.
  • Hardware full duplex serial port, built-in send and receive buffer, support communication baud rate 50bps ~ 2Mbps.
  • Support common MODEM contact signal RTS, DTR, DCD, RI, DSR, CTS.
  • Through the additional level conversion device, providing RS232, RS485, RS422 and other interfaces.
  • Software compatible CH341, CH341 driver can be used directly.
  • Support 5V supply voltage and 3.3V supply voltage or even 3V supply voltage.
  • Built-in clock, no external crystal.
  • Available in SOP-16 and SSOP-20 and MSOP-10 lead – free packages, RoHS compliant.

The chip costs about 42 cents with a minimum order of 5 pieces on Eelectrodragon store. There is also an option to get a small board featuring the CH340E for about $1, and maybe cheaper in the future. Finally, the most powerful feature of this chip is that you can easily add USB connectivity to your own design.

Source: CNX-software

ICECool – An Intra-Chip Cooling System That Is More Efficient

In the Moore’s Law race to keep improving computer performance, the IT industry has turned upward, stacking chips like nano-sized 3D skyscrapers. But those stacks have their limits, due to overheating. Researchers from IBM have solved this problem by developing an intra-chip cooling system as a contribution to ICECool program research project by the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

ICECool - intra-chip cooling system by IBM
ICECool – intra-chip cooling system by IBM

Today, chips are typically cooled by fans which blow air through heatsinks that sit on top of the chips to carry away excess heat. Advanced water-cooling approaches, which are more effective than air-cooling approaches, replace the heatsink with a cold plate that is fixed on the top of the chip.  But this approach requires extra protection and proper insulation of the chip because of the electrical conductivity of water. Neither of these technologies can cool down the chip much efficiently. Here comes the ICECool that cools the chip down from the inside rather than just from the upper surface.

ICECool uses a nonconductive fluid to bring the fluid into the chip. This completely eliminates the need for a barrier between the chip and fluid. It not only delivers a lower device junction temperature, but also reduces system size, weight, and power consumption significantly. The tests performed on the IBM Power 7+ chips demonstrated junction temperature reduction by 25ᵒ C, and chip power usage reduction by 7 percent compared to traditional air cooling. This is clearly a great achievement when the operating cost is much smaller than the conventional cooling technologies.

IBM’s ICECool intra-chip cooling system solves the problem of cooling the 3D “skyscraper” chips by pumping a heat-extracting dielectric fluid right into microscopic gaps, some no thicker than a single strand of hair, between the chips at any level of the stack. Being nonconducting, the dielectric fluid used in ICECool can come into contact with electrical connections without causing any short circuit, so is not limited to one part of a chip or stack. Based on the tests with IBM Power Systems, ICECool technology could reduce the cooling energy for a traditional air-cooled data center by more than 90 percent.

LT8650S – Dual Channel 4A, 42V, Synchronous Step-Down Silent Switcher

The LT8650S is a dual step-down regulator that delivers up to 4A of continuous current from both channels and supports loads up to 6A from each channel. The LT8650S features the second generation Silent Switcher architecture to minimize EMI emissions while delivering high efficiency at high switching frequencies. This includes integration of bypass capacitors to optimize high frequency current loops and make it easy to achieve advertised EMI performance by eliminating layout sensitivity. Spread spectrum operation can further reduce EMI emissions. The fast, clean, low-overshoot switching edges enable high efficiency operation even at high switching frequencies, leading to a small overall solution size. Burst Mode operation features a 6.2μA quiescent current resulting in high efficiency at low output currents.

LT8650S – Dual Channel 4A, 42V, Synchronous Step-Down Silent Switcher – [Link]

The integration of microchannels into the silicon interposer

Researchers Innovated Highly Effective Silicon Microchannel Thermal coolers For Processors

One of the limiting factors for the computing power of processors is the operating temperature. A research team led by Dr. Wolfram Steller, Dr. Hermann Oppermann, and Dr. Jessika Kleff from the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM, has developed a new as well as an efficient cooling method by integrating microchannels into the silicon interposer. For the first time, it is possible to cool down high-performance processors from the bottom as well.

The integration of microchannels into the silicon interposer
The integration of microchannels into the silicon interposer boosts cooling and processor performance

When processors get too hot to work properly, they reduce their clock speed and operating voltage. In order to protect the CPU and motherboard from getting fried, the processors either reduce their computing speed or even shut off completely. Until now, cooling elements and fans are used to avoid overheating the heat-sensitive components. The researchers found a way to cool processors from the top as well as from below using a liquid-based cooling system.

The research team reports that the innovation can achieve a significant increase in performance. The scientists have also integrated passive elements for voltage regulators, photonic ICs, and optical waveguides into the interposer. This enables highly effective cooling and therefore higher performance. For this purpose, microchannel structures with tightly sealed vias are installed in the silicon interposer, which is located between the processor and the printed circuit board.

Interposers are responsible for the electrical supply and cooling of the processor. Every 200 micrometers, interposers are equipped with electrical connections to ensure the processor’s power supply and data transmission. In order to be able to absorb heat and channel it away from the processor, the researchers at Fraunhofer IZM created microfluid channels that allow coolant to be circulated through vias.

The main challenge to the researchers was to integrate the small channels into the interposer and seal them very tightly in order to separate them from the electrical paths. The solution they came up with is interesting – the interposer is made of two silicon plates – horizontally extending cooling channels and vertically extending channels. They are combined in a complementary manner.

Dr. Hermann Oppermann, the group leader at Fraunhofer IZM, said,

Up to now, the cooling structures are not very close to the computer core itself, which means the coolers are mostly applied from above. The closer you get to the heat source, the better the temperature can be limited or the output increased. In high-performance computing, in particular, the data rates are continuously increasing. Therefore, it is important to have an effective cooling to ensure a higher clock rate.

PAC1934 – Microchip’s New Power-Monitoring IC Measures Power With 99% Accuracy

Microchip recently developed a precision power-and-energy-monitoring chip – PAC1934. The PAC1934 is a four channel power/energy monitor with current sensor amplifier and bus voltage monitors that feed high-resolution ADC. It works in conjunction with a Microchip software driver that is fully compatible with the Energy Estimation Engine (E3) built into the Windows 10 operating system. The whole setup provides 99 percent accuracy on all battery-powered Windows 10 devices.

PAC1934 - Software power monitoring IC
PAC1934 – Software power monitoring IC

The PAC1934 enables energy monitoring with a wide range of integration periods from 1 ms to up to 36 hours. Combining Microchip’s PAC1934 chip and Microsoft’s E3 service can enhance the measurement of battery usage by different applications up to 29 percent. The sophisticated digital circuitry of the IC performs power calculations and energy accumulation precisely.

The PAC1934 is able to measure voltage accurately as low as 0V and as high as 32V. This ability lets the chip precisely measure power usage from the Central Processing Unit (CPU) as well as from software running on devices connected through a USB Type-C connector. The chip has features that could make it an essential part of future software upgrades. No input filters are required for this chip as it uses real-time calibration to suppress offset and gain errors.

The PAC1934 measures bus voltage, sense resistor voltage, and accumulated proportional power. Then stores the data in 16-bit registers for retrieval by the system master or embedded controller. The data transfer between the chip and the host system is performed over SMBus or I2C. The sampling rate and energy integration period can also be controlled similarly. Another important feature is its highly configurable controls, such as Active channel selection and one-shot measurements.

Most important features are:

  • 100 mV full-scale voltage sense range, 16-bit resolution.
  • Bidirectional or unidirectional options.
  • Wide bus voltage measurement range 0V to 32V, 16-Bit Resolution.
  • 1% power measurement accuracy.
  • 48-bit power accumulator register for recording data.
  • 24-bit accumulator count.
  • User programmable sampling rates of 8, 64, 256, 1024 samples per second.
  • 36 hours of power data accumulation at 8 samples per second.
  • 2.7V to 5.5V supply operation.
  • Separate I/O pin for digital I/O 1.62-5.5V.
  • I2C fast mode plus (1Mp/S) and SMBus 3.0.

For more information on this IC, visit Microchip’s website here.

LT8362 – Low IQ Boost/SEPIC/Inverting Converter with 2A, 60V Switch

The LT8362 is a current mode, 2MHz step-up DC/DC converter with an internal 2A, 60V switch. It operates from an input voltage range of 2.8V to 60V, suitable for applications with input sources ranging from a single-cell Li-Ion battery to automotive and industrial inputs. The LT8362 can be configured as either a boost, SEPIC or an inverting converter. Its switching frequency can be programmed between 300kHz and 2MHz, enabling designers to minimize external component sizes and avoid critical frequency bands, such as AM radio. Furthermore, it offers over 90% efficiency while switching at 2MHz. Burst Mode operation reduces quiescent current to only 9μA while keeping output ripple below 15mVP-P. The combination of a 3mm x 3mm DFN or high voltage MSOP-16E package and tiny externals ensures a highly compact footprint while minimizing solution cost.

LT8362 – Low IQ Boost/SEPIC/Inverting Converter with 2A, 60V Switch – [Link]

OSD335x-SM & OSD3358-SM-RED Dev Board

Austin, Texas (September 19, 2017) – Octavo Systems LLC (Octavo) announced the production release and immediate availability of its highly anticipated OSD335x-SM System-In-Package (SiP) device.  The OSD335x-SM, like the entire OSD335x family, integrates the Texas Instruments (TI) Sitara™ AM335x processor with an ARM® Cortex®-A8 core running at 1GHz, DDR3 memory, a TPS65217C power management IC (PMIC), a TL5209 low-dropout (LDO) regulator, and passive components into a single wide pitch (1.27mm) BGA package.  The OSD335x-SM enhances this integration by adding EEPROM as well and reducing the package size by 40%.

The OSD335x-SM comes in a 21mm x 21mm (0.83in x 0.83in) 256 Ball wide pitch (1.27mm) BGA. Occupying 441 square millimeters, the OSD335x-SM uses 60% less space than the equivalent system designed with discrete components.  It is the smallest AM335x processor-based module on the market today that still allows complete access to all the AM335x device I/Os including the PRUs.

“The OSD335x-SM was built to allow system designers to quickly create the smallest possible ARM Cortex®-A8 system and then easily transition into production,” says Bill Heye, President of Octavo Systems.  “By removing the need for DDR routing, power sequencing, complex supply chains and larger PCBs, the OSD335x-SM provides value across the entire life cycle of a design.  We are excited to finally release it to the market and we can’t wait to see the innovative ways people leverage this technology.”

The first 21mm device in the family, the OSD3358-512M-BSM, can be purchased today through Octavo’s distribution partners, Digi-Key Electronics and Mouser Electronics.

The OSD3358-SM-RED Platform

enlarged cross-section of an experimental chip made of ultrathin semiconductors

New Ultrathin Semiconductors Can Make More Efficient and Ten Times Smaller Transistors Than Silicon

The researchers at Stanford University have discovered two ultrathin semiconductors – hafnium diselenide and zirconium diselenide. They share or even exceed some of the very important characteristics of silicon. Silicon has a great property of forming “rust” or silicon dioxide (SiO2) by reacting with oxygen. As the SiO2 acts as an insulator, chip manufacturers implement this property to isolate their circuits on a die. The most interesting fact about these newly discovered semiconductors is, they also form “rust” just like silicon.

enlarged cross-section of an experimental chip made of ultrathin semiconductors
An enlarged cross-section of an experimental chip made of ultrathin semiconductors

The new materials can also be contracted to functional circuits just three atoms thick and they require much less energy than silicon circuits. Hafnium diselenide and zirconium diselenide “rust” even better than silicon and form so-called high-K insulator. The researchers hope to use these materials to design thinner and more energy-efficient chips for satisfying the needs of future devices.

Apart from having the ability to “rust”, the newly discovered ultrathin semiconductors also have the perfect range of energy band gap – a secret feature of silicon. The band gap is the energy needed to switch transistors on and it is a critical factor in computing. Too low band gap causes the circuits to leak and make unreliable. Too high and the chip takes excessive energy to operate and becomes inefficient. Surprisingly, Hafnium diselenide and zirconium diselenide are in the same optimal range of band gap as silicon.

All this and the diselenides can also be used to make circuits which are just three atoms thick, or about two-thirds of a nanometer, something silicon can never do. Eric Pop, an associate professor of electrical engineering, who co-authored with post-doctoral scholar Michal Mleczko in a study paper, said,

Engineers have been unable to make silicon transistors thinner than about five nanometers, before the material properties begin to change in undesirable ways.

If these semiconductors can be integrated with silicon, much longer battery life and much more complex functionality can be achieved in consumer electronics. The combination of thinner circuits and desirable high-K insulation means that these ultrathin semiconductors could be made into transistors 10 times tinier than anything possible with silicon today. As Eric Pop said,

There’s more research to do, but a new path to thinner, smaller circuits – and more energy-efficient electronics – is within reach.

Microchip SST26WF064C Flash Memory Chip

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 http://www.microchip.com/wwwproducts/en/SST26WF064C.