Technology category

96-Layer Memory Chips By Toshiba

The need for larger memory storage for smartphones will never stop, especially with the continuous development of larger and stronger applications. This need is always pushing semiconductor manufacturers to keep trying to fit as much bits as possible in  smaller volumes and with lower costs.

To achieve this, memory chips are now growing in three dimensions instead of two. Recently, Toshiba has developed a new 96-layer BiCS 3D flash memory device with a storage capacity of 32 GB. The new device meets market demands and performance specifications for applications that include enterprise and consumer SSD, smartphones, tablets and memory cards.

This memory chip was built with three bits per cell, known as triple-level cell (TLC) technology. Stacking layers and manufacturing process increase the capacity of each chip with 40% per unit size. They also reduce the cost per bit, and increase the manufacturability of memory capacity per silicon wafer.

In order to add more layers to the chip, Toshiba is working on increasing the number of bits in every cell. In the near future, it will apply its new 96-layer process technology to larger capacity products, such as 64 GB. It will also develop chips with QLC (quadruple-level cell) technology.

By stacking 64 layers of QLCs, the engineers at Toshiba have created a 96-gigabyte device. Integrating 16 of them in one package will achieve a capacity of 1.5 TB, that corresponds to 12 trillion bits.

If you are interested, you can check these out at the 2017 Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California from August 7-10.

Source: elektor

Open-Hardware Reaches The Outer Space with UPSat Satellite

Libre Space Foundation completed the mission of building a completely Open-Source 2U CubeSat Satellite from scratch. It’s called “UPSat”.

On April 18th at Cape Canaveral in Florida, Atlas V Rocket launched Private Cygnus Cargo Ship, and UPSat was among its cargo.

Subsystems of UPSat. Image courtesy of UPSat

With both software and hardware parts published on github. UPSat seems to be a real open hardware project.

Let’s have a quick overview of the UPSat’s subsystems:

  • Electrical Power Subsystem EPS: This subsystem controls the CubeSat’s electrical power. UPSat is powered by 7 PV solar cells and 3 Li-Po rechargeable batteries (3.7V, 4Ah).
  • Image Acquisition Component IAC: The goal of the IAC is to shoot relatively good quality images pointing down to the Earth. IAC consists of a linux embedded board( DART4460 running OpenWRT), and a USB camera Ximea MU9PM-MH with attached lens.
  • Attitude Determination and Control Subsystem ADCS: The ADCS is armed with 3-axis digital gyroscope, magnetometer, Sun Tracker’s pointing vector GPS and Magneto-Torquers. This subsystem is responsible for stabilization of the cube satellite and orienting it in the desired direction.
  • On Board Computer subsystem OBC:  The brain of the satellite for decision making and monitoring of all subsystems. It’s based on STM32F4 microcontroller and uses FreeRTOS firmware.
    OBC PCB

     

  • Communications Subsystem COMMS: It’s based on CC1120, the TI’s High-Performance RF Transceiver.  Because of the low current consumption, the success of employing it in previous missions and other couple of reasons, the folks behind this project selected CC1120 among the others.

The project is completely open-Hardware and even the UPSat’s structure design files are available.

Source: Open Electronics

A New Material For Unbreakable Smart Devices

Most of smartphones parts are made of silicons and other compounds, which are expensive and easily-breakable. This problem is making all of smart devices manufacturers looking for stronger and cheaper solutions.

By combining a set of materials, a group of researchers have successfully discovered a new material which could finally finish the disaster of cracked smartphone and tablet screens. The research group is led by a Queen’s University’s School of Mathematics and Physics researchers, with scientists from Stanford University, University of California, California State University and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan.

Alongside conducting electricity at novel speeds, the new material is light, durable, and can be easily produced in large conventional semiconductor plants. It is a combination of  C60 fullerenes with layered materials such as graphene and h-BN (boron nitride), which presents a unique material with special properties that will be particularly relevant for use in smart device manufacturing.

This material composition has properties that are not naturally found in other materials. The hBN provides stability, electronic compatibility and isolation charge to graphene, while C60 can transform sunlight into electricity. The combining process is known as “der Waals solids” that allows compounds to be brought together and assembled in a pre-defined way.

The material also could mean that devices use less energy than before because of the device architecture so could have improved battery life and less electric shocks. This cutting-edge research is timely and a hot-topic involving key players in the field, which opens a clear international pathway to put Queen’s on the road-map of further outstanding investigations.
~ Dr Elton Santos, leader of the research group

The research shows that the material has the same properties as silicon, but higher chemical stability, lower weight and greater flexibility. These features would make the screens made of this material more difficult to break.

There is still one problem needs a solution. The graphene and the new material architecture is lacking a ‘band gap’, which is an important property to make active semiconductor devices. The team is planning to solve this using transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) which are chemically highly stable and have bandgaps like silicon.

According to the research group, this findings will pave the way for further exploration of new materials in the future. You can find more details about this by reviewing the research paper, which was published in the scientific journal ACS Nano, and by reading the official announcement.

Cinque, Combining RISC-V With Arduino

After announcing “HiFive1” at the end of 2016, SiFive is introducing its second RISC-V based development board “The Arduino Cinque“. It is the first Arduino board that is featuring RISC-V instruction set architecture.

Arduino Cinque is running SiFive’s Freedom E310, one of the fastest and powerful microcontrollers in the hardware market. It also includes built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities by using the efficient, low-power Espressif ESP32 chip. During the Maker Faire Bay Area on May 20th, only some prototypes of Arduino Cinque were available for demonstration.

The FE310 SoC features the E31 CPU Coreplex (32-bit RV32IMAC Core) with 16KB L1 instruction cache and 16KB data SRAM scratchpad. It runs at 320 MHz operating speed and it also has a debugging module, one-time programmable non-volatile memory (OTP), and on-chip oscillators and PLLS. FE310 also supports UART, QSPI, PWM, and timer peripherals and low-power standby mode.

The availability of the Arduino Cinque provides the many dreamers, tinkerers, professional makers and aspiring entrepreneurs access to state-of-the-art silicon on one of the world’s most popular development architectures. Using an open-source chip built on top of RISC-V is the natural evolution of open-source hardware, and the Arduino Cinque has the ability to put powerful SiFive silicon into the hands of makers around the world.
~ Dale Dougherty, founder and executive chairman of Maker Media

Details and other specifications of the Cinque are still poor, but we can expect its strength from the chips and SoCs it uses. It uses STM32F103, that has Cortex-M3 core with a maximum CPU speed of 72 MHz, to provide the board with USB to UART translation. ESP32 is also used as for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

Espressif ESP32 Specifications

  • 240 MHz dual core Tensilica LX6 micrcontroller
  • 520KB SRAM
  • 802.11 BGN HT40 Wi-Fi transceiver, baseband, stack, and LWIP
  • Classic and BLE integrated dual mode Bluetooth
  • 16 MB flash memory
  • On-board PCB antenna
  • IPEX connector for use with external antenna
  • Ultra-low noise analog amplifier
  • Hall sensor
  • 32 KHz crystal oscillator
  • GPIOs for UART, SPI, I2S, I2C, DAC, and PWM
A first look at the RISC-V-based Arduino Cinque, a SiFive R&D project.
A first look at the RISC-V-based Arduino Cinque, a SiFive R&D project.

The RISC-V Foundation is working to spread the idea and the benefits of the open-source ISA. Its efforts include hosting workshops, participating in conferences, and collaborating with academia and industry. The foundation had also worked with researchers from Princeton University to identify flaws with the ISA design. They presented their findings at the 22nd ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems.

Renesas Embedded SRAM prototype with SOTB Structure

Renesas Electronics Achieves Lowest Embedded SRAM Power of 13.7 nW/Mbit

Renesas Electronics Corporation announced the successful development of a new low-power SRAM circuit technology that achieves a record ultra-low power consumption of 13.7 nW/Mbit in standby mode. The prototype SRAM also achieves a high-speed readout time of 1.8 ns during active operation. Renesas Electronics applied its 65nm node silicon on thin buried oxide (SOTB) process to develop this record-creating SRAM prototype.

Renesas Embedded SRAM prototype with SOTB Structure
Renesas Embedded SRAM prototype with SOTB Structure

This new low-power SRAM circuit technology can be embedded in application specific standard products (ASSPs) for Internet of Things (IoT), home electronics, and healthcare applications. The fast growth of IoT is requiring all the devices be connected to a wireless network all the time. Hence, products must consume less power to prolong battery life. With this new technology applied, much longer battery life can be achieved enabling maintenance-free applications.

One essential part of the development of IoT applications is the miniaturization of end products. This can be achieved by lowering battery capacity requirement of ASSPs. As an effort to reduce the power consumption in ASSPs for the IoT, there is a technique in which the application is operated in the standby mode and only goes to the active mode when data processing is required.

Now, the conventional way of saving power is to store all important data to an internal/external non-volatile memory and cut off the power supply to the circuit. If the wait time is long enough, this method is effective. But in most of the cases, the device has to switch between standby mode and active mode very quickly causing data-saving and restarting process extremely inefficient. There are even cases where, inversely, this increases power consumption.

In contrary to above, the new technology by Renesas Electronics uses a method where power consumption in standby mode is reduced a lot enabling switching operation to be performed frequently without leading to increased power consumption. Hence, it’s no more required to save data to non-volatile memory. This improves the efficiency further.

The low-power embedded SRAM which is fabricated using the 65 nm SOTB process, achieves both the low standby mode power consumption and increased operating speed.  Such features were difficult to achieve with the continuing progress of the semiconductor process miniaturization.  Renesas plans to support both energy harvesting operation and development of maintenance free IoT applications that do not require battery replacement by enabling ASSPs that adopt the embedded SRAM with SOTB structure.

To learn about all the complex technical information which is not covered in the scope of this article, visit the press release page of Renesas Electronics.

Quantum Internet Is Coming!

Secure and unhackable Internet is a goal of many researchers around the world. This is possible using an invisible quantum physical connections as networking links known as “quantum entanglement“. The main challenge is building  large networks that share entangled links with many particles and network nodes, because adding a node will weak the entanglement.

Researchers from Delft and Oxford have successfully found a way to form a strong entangled link. Their solution relays on merging multiple weaker quantum links into one to build a trustworthy quantum network between several quantum nodes.

The research group in known for its effort on implementing quantum entanglement to realize networking links. Now, they are working to pave the way for constructing the first quantum internet. They used photons to reach up to one kilometer macroscopic distance of quantum information link. They also show that this type of link is safe because the entanglement is invisible to intermediate parties, and the information is safe against eavesdropping.

We could now entangle electrons in additional quantum nodes such that we can extend the number of networking links towards a first real quantum network. Scientifically, a whole new world opens up. In five years we will connect four Dutch cities in a rudimentary quantum network.
– Ronald Hanson, The research group leader

This video demonstrates the new method and how it works:

The research paper was published in Science magazine, you can read it for more information.

Sources: TUDelft, elektor.

Bluey, BLE Development Board Supports NFC

Development boards are assistant tools that help engineers and enthusiasts to become familiarized with hardware development. They simplify the process of controlling and programming hardware, such as microcontrollers and microprocessors.

Electronut Labs, an embedded systems consulting company, had produced its new BLE development board “Bluey” with a set of useful sensors and NFC support.

Bluey is an open source board that features the Nordic nRF52832 SoC which supports BLE and other proprietary wireless protocols. Bluey has built-in sensors that include temperature, humidity, ambient light and accelerometer sensors. Also, it supports NFC and comes with a built-in NFC PCB antenna.

The nRF52832 SoC is a powerful, ultra-low power multiprotocol SoC suited for Bluetooth Low Energy, ANT and 2.4GHz ultra low-power wireless applications. It is built around a 32-bit ARM Cortex™-M4F CPU with 512kB + 64kB RAM.

Bluey Specifications:

  • Nordic nRF52832 QFAA BLE SoC (512k Flash / 64k RAM)
  • TI HDC1010 Temperature/Humidity sensor
  • APDS-9300-020 ambient light sensor
  • ST Micro LSM6DS3 accelerometer
  • CREE RGB LED
  • CP2104 USB interface
  • 2 push buttons
  • Coin cell holder
  • Micro SD slot
  • 2.4 GHz PCB antenna
  • NFC PCB antenna

Bluey can be programmed using the Nordic nRF5 SDK. You can upload the code with an external programmer such as the Nordic nRF52-DK, or the Black Magic Probe firmware on STM32F103 breakout. But, within the built-in OTA (over the air) bootloader, you can upload the code directly using a PC or a phone.

The sensors on the board require a minimum of 2.7 volts to function properly, and the maximum power is 6 volts. Bluey’s design offers three different ways to power it, all of them have a polarity protection:

  1. Using the 5V micro USB connector (which also gives you the option to print debug messages via UART).
  2. The + / – power supply pins which can take regular 2.54 mm header pins, a JST connector for a 3.7 V LiPo battery, or a 3.5 mm terminal block.
  3. A CR2032 coin cell for low power applications.

You can use Bluey for a wide range of projects. The BLE part is ideal for IoT projects, or if you want to control something with your phone. The nRF52832 SoC has a powerful ARM Cortex-M4F CPU, so you can use this board for general purpose microcontroller projects as well.

Bluey is available for $29 for international customers from Tindie store. Indian customers can purchase it from Instamojo store. There are also discounts for bulk purchases. For more information about the board visit its github repository, where you will find a full guide to start and a bunch of demo projects.

XBEE X V2 FPV Racing Drone Kit

XBEE, the FPV racing drones manufacturer, had produced recently its new racing frame “XBEE X V2” for $75. It is a follow-up to the previous model “The XB-X Mk2” and it is a quad drone frame with a camera on its body. X V2 is designed with Wheelbase 220mm size guide.

First-person view (FPV) is also known as video piloting. Using this technique you can control a radio-controlled vehicle from the driver or pilot’s view point. The vehicle is either driven or piloted remotely from a first-person perspective via an onboard camera, fed wirelessly to video FPV goggles or a video monitor.

V2 Features:

  • Full Carbon Fiber.
  • 2mm Bottom Plate, 2mm Top Plate and 4mm arms
  • Matek PDB include(PDB-XPW W/ CURRENT SENSOR 140A & DUAL BEC)
  • Black steel screws(option titanium screws)
  • Transmitter mount include
  • weight : 79g

To build a full drone with the V2 frame you will need these parts with a total budget of about $450:

This video by X-FramesFPV will show you how to build XBEE X V2:

You can also follow this guide for detailed instructions of a full build of V2.

Mokacam Alpha, The World’s Smallest 4K Camera

Have you ever imagined to record your life at high quality with a small and an affordable camera? Mokacam, the camera producer company is making this possible. After the success of the first version, Mokacam had launched its new 4K camera, Alpha. Initially, Alpha is a smaller and more powerful version featuring Ambarella processor for 4K video to 120 FPS super slow motion. In addition, Alpha weighs only 79g and is sized 45x45mm.

Alpha is attachable to a shutter wheel to enable you shoot long exposure night photos. In Manual mode, you can turn the shutter wheel to set the shutter speed freely from 1/2000″ up to 32″. Additionally, you will forget completely the need of charging it again. Thanks to the built-in-battery feature, you can expect 4 hours continuous 1080P@30FPS video recording. Otherwise, you can add snap-on batteries and record forever!

Mokacam Alpha captures brighter image with more details under low light environment. The Ambrella image processor and the 1.55μm Sony image sensor provides features of 4K Ultra-HD or Full-HD 1/5 Speed Slow Motion video with incredible image quality.

Mokacam Alpha Features

Check this video to know the full features of Mokacam Alpha.

In this video you can find Mokacam Alpha compared to GoPro Hero 5 Black. Also, you can find below its competitive advantages.

Amazingly, Alpha was live on a crowdfunding campaign on Indigogo and it reached 1200% of its goal! You can check the official website and the product page for more details. Finally, you can pre-order Alpha now for $215 as a limited edition.

A 5nm GAAFET Chip By IBM, Samsung & GlobalFoundries

In less than two years since making a 7nm test node chip with 20 billion transistors, scientists have paved the way for 30 billion switches on a fingernail-sized chip. IBM with its Research Alliance partners, GlobalFoundries and Samsung, have unveiled their industry-first process that will enable production of 5nm chips.

The new 5nm technology is one of the first ICs based on GAAFET (Gate-All-Around) topology transistors and also probably the first serious application of EUV (Extreme UltraViolet) lithography.

5 nm GAAFET IC from IBM, Samsung & GlobalFoundries
5 nm GAAFET IC from IBM, Samsung & GlobalFoundries

Gate-all-around FETs are similar in concept to FinFETs except that the gate material surrounds the channel region on all sides. Depending on design, gate-all-around FETs can have two or four effective gates. Successfully, Gate-all-around FETs have been characterized both theoretically and experimentally. Also, they have been successfully etched onto InGaAs nanowires, which have a higher electron mobility than silicon.

IBM claims that it can fit in up to 30 Billion transistors on the chip using GAAFET on a 50 mm² chip. It’s a big move in the semiconductor world, as designs become increasingly complicated to apply. While comparing 5nm GAAFET to 10nm commercial chips, it will achieve a 40% performance boost and a 75% power consumption reduction, at similar performance levels. These are some big claims, so expect some big changes just around the corner.

“For business and society to meet the demands of cognitive and cloud computing in the coming years, advancement in semiconductor technology is essential,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president, Hybrid Cloud, and director, IBM Research. “That’s why IBM aggressively pursues new and different architectures and materials that push the limits of this industry, and brings them to market in technologies like mainframes and our cognitive systems.”

For more information you can visit the official announcement.