Tag Archives: chip

Femtosecond Electronics With Plasmonic Hot Electron Nano-emitters

A team led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) physicists Alexander Holleitner and Reinhard Kienberger has found success for the first time in generating ultrashort electric pulses on a chip. They made this possible by using asymmetric metal antennas only a few nanometers in dimension, then running the signals a few millimeters above the surface and receiving them in a controlled way.

Traditional electronics allow frequencies up to around 100 GHz. Optoelectronics can produce electric pulses at 10 THz range by applying electromagnetic phenomenon. The range in between them is referred as the terahertz gap, since components for signal generation, conversion, and detection have been remarkably difficult to achieve.

The TUM physicists succeeded in generating electric pulses in the frequency range up to 10 THz using tiny, so-called plasmonic antennas and run them over a chip. Researchers call the antennas plasmonic because of their shape, they amplify the light intensity at the metal surfaces. The shape of these plasmonic antennas is very important. They are asymmetrical in shape. One side of the nanometer-sized metal structures is more pointed than the other. When a lens-focused laser pulse excites the antennas, they emit more electrons on their pointed side than on the opposite flat ones. An electric current flows between the contacts — but only as long as the antennas are excited with the laser light.

Femtosecond near-field coupling of NIR pulses to THz stripline modes
Femtosecond near-field coupling of NIR pulses to THz stripline modes

In photoemission, the light pulse causes electrons to be emitted from the metal into the vacuum,

explains Christoph Karnetzky, lead author of the Nature paper.

All the lighting effects are stronger on the sharp side, including the photoemission that we use to generate a small amount of current. The light pulses were present in only a few femtoseconds.

Correspondingly short were the electrical pulses in the antennas.  In this way, a femtosecond laser pulse with a frequency of 200 THz could generate an ultra-short THz signal with a frequency of up to 10 THz in the circuits on the chip, according to Karnetzky.

The researchers chose sapphire as the chip material, because it cannot be excited optically and, thus, causes no interference. With an eye on future applications, they used 1.5-micron wavelength lasers deployed in traditional internet fiber-optic cables. Holleitner and his colleagues also made yet another amazing observation that both the electrical and the THz pulses were non-linearly dependent on the excitation power of the laser used. This means that the photoemission in the antennas is triggered by the absorption of multiple photons per light pulse.

Alexander Holleitner said,

Such fast, nonlinear on-chip pulses did not exist hitherto

Utilizing this effect he hopes to discover even faster tunnel emission effects in the antennas and to use them for chip applications.

Renesas Develops RJ45 Ethernet Socket With Entire Ethernet Controller Embedded Into It

Renesas Electronics Corporation, a significant supplier of advanced semiconductor solutions, announced its latest industrial Ethernet module solution, the I-RJ45. It combines a single- or dual-port RJ45 connector and simplifies integration for industrial Ethernet by supporting various industrial network applications including sensors and transmitters, gateways, operator terminals and remote I/O.

Renesas RJ45 Ethernet Module
Renesas RJ45 Ethernet Module

This new device is an intelligent RJ45 module that comes with specialized embedded software that supports multiple industrial Ethernet protocol stacks. The software package and sample codes provide system manufacturers with a complete set of tools and frameworks to build their application. This helps to prototype systems, reducing the time needed for industrial network protocol integration. The modules are 50 x 17.5 x 12mm (single) and 50 x 35 x 12mm (dual).

With a general Application Programmable Interface (API), the application can easily be connected to the protocol software. It offers a seamless integration path to other Renesas ASSP solutions. The single-port version of the RJ45 module is based on the RX64M microcontroller (MCU) Group and the dual-port module solution includes the R-IN32M3 industrial Ethernet communication chip.

Renesas also offers a solution kit version of the module that consists of a single or dual-port industrial Ethernet module attached to an adapter board for development. This adapter board enhances the module to connect with Arduino and Pmod interfaces, which enables it to connect to other Renesas MCU development boards including Renesas Synergy™ and RX. The Ethernet module solution kit also includes a quick start-up guide, a USB cable and a CD with software and documentation.

Samples of the I-RJ45 industrial Ethernet module solution are now available worldwide. The mass production is scheduled to begin in Q3, 2018. The industrial Ethernet module solution kit may be available in April 2018 and projected price of €299.00 per kit.

More information is available at the product page of Renesas.

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.

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

Making A Pickit 3 Clone

Make Your Own Pic Programmer and Debugger. by reviahh @ reviahh.wordpress.com

After using the Microchip tools to program and debug the projects I work on, I wondered about creating my own programming/debugging module that I could put on my own boards – just like Microchip does with their starter kits and such. As I became more interested in that idea, I began to search the web to see if anyone else had already done something similar. Initially, I found lots of posts regarding the 2nd version of the Pickit – the Pickit 2, but not as much regarding the latest version – the Pickit 3 – which is what I need to program the 32 bit pic processors that I am using.

Making A Pickit 3 Clone – [Link]

Open-V, The Open Source RISC-V 32bit Microcontroller

Open source has finally arrived to microcontrollers. Based on RISC-V instruction set, a group of doctoral students at the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia have been working on an open source 32-bit chip called “Open-V“.

Onchip, the startup of the research team, is focusing on integrated systems and is aiming to build the first system-on-chip designed in Colombia. The team aims to contribute to the growth of the open source community by developing an equivalent of commercial microcontrollers implemented with an ARM M0 core.

The Open-V is a 2x2mm chip that hosts built-in peripherals which any modern microcontroller could have. Currently, it has ADC, DAC, SPI, I2C, UART, GPIO, PWM, and timer peripherals designed and tested in real silicon. Other peripherals, such as USB 2, USB3, internal NVRAM and/or EEPROM, and a convolutional neural network (CNN) are under development.

Open-V Chip Specifications

  • Package: QFN-32
  • Processor RISC-V ISA version 2.1 with 1.2 V operation
  • Memory: 8 KB SRAM
  • Clock: 32 KHz – 160 MHz, Two PLLs, user-tunable with muxers and frequency dividers
  • True Random Number Generator: 400 KiB/s
  • Analog Signals: Two 10-bit ADC channels, each running at up to 10 MS/s, and two 12-bit DAC channels
  • Timers: One general-purpose 16-bit timer, and one 16-bit watch dog timer (WDT)
  • General Purpose Input/Ouput: 16 programmable GPIO pins with two external interrupts
  • Interfaces: SDIO port (e.g., microSD), two SPI ports, I2C, UART
  • Programming and Testing
    • Built-in debug module for use with gdb and JTAG
    • Programmable PRBS-31/15/7 generator and checker for interconnect testing
    • Compatible with the Arduino IDE

RISC-V is a new open instruction set architecture (ISA) designed to support architecture research and education. RISC-V is fully available to public and has advantages such as a smaller footprint size, support for highly-parallel multi-core implementations, variable-length instructions to support an optional dense instruction, ease of implementation in hardware, and energy efficiency.

Open-V core provides compatibility with Arduino, so it is possible to benefit from its rich resources. Also when finish preparing the first patch, demos and tutorials will be released showing how Open-V can be used with the Arduino and other resources.

The Open-V microcontroller uses several portions of the Advanced Microcontroller Bus Architecture (AMBA) open standard for on-chip interconnection. This makes any Open-V functional block, such as the core or any of the peripherals, easy to incorporate into existing chip designs that also use AMBA. We hope this will motivate other silicon companies to release RISC-V-based microcontrollers using the peripherals they’ve already developed and tested with ARM-based cores.
We think buses are so important, we even wrote a paper about them for IEEE LASCAS 2016.

Open-V Development Board Specifications

Onchip team are also developing a fully assembled development board for their Open-V. It is a 55 mm x 30 mm board that features everything you need to get start developing with the Open-V microcontroller, include:

  • USB 2.0 controller
  • 1.2 V and 3.3 V voltage regulators
  • Clock reference
  • Breadboard-compatible breakout header pins
  • microSD receptacle
  • Micro USB connector (power and data)
  • JTAG connector
  • 32 KB EEPROM
  • 32-pin QFN Open-V microcontroller

Compared with ARM M0+ microcontrollers, power and area simulations show that a RISC-V architecture can provide similar performance. This table demonstrates a comparison between Open-V and some other chipsets.

OnChip Open-V microcontroller designs are fully open sourced, including the register-transfer level (RTL) files for the CPU and all peripherals and the development and testing tools they use. All resources are available at their GitHub account under the MIT license.

We think open source integrated circuit (IC) design will give the semiconductor industry the reboot it needs to get out of the deep innovation rut dug by the entrenched players. Just like open source software ushered in the last two decades of software innovation, open source silicon will unleash a flood of hardware innovation. The Open-V microcontroller is one concrete step in that direction.

A crowdfunding campaign with $400k goal has been launched to support manufacturing of Open-V. The chip is available for $49 and the development board for $99. There are also many options and offers.

Self-learning neuromorphic chip composes music

Peter Clarke @  eedesignnewseurope.com reporting:

Research institute IMEC has created a neuromorphic chip based on metal-oxide ReRAM technology that has the ability to self-learn. That self-learning has been applied to music making.

Self-learning neuromorphic chip composes music – [Link]

Reverse engineering the 76477 sound effect chip

Ken Shirriff has written an article on reverse engineering the 76477 “Space Invaders” sound effect chip:

Remember the old video game Space Invaders? Some of its sound effects were provided by a chip called the 76477 Complex Sound Generation chip. While the sound effects1 produced by this 1978 chip seem primitive today, it was used in many video games, pinball games. But what’s inside this chip and how does it work internally? By reverse-engineering the chip from die photos, we can find out. (Photos courtesy of Sean Riddle.) In this article, I explain how the analog circuits of this chip works and show how the hundreds of transistors on the silicon die form the circuits of this complex chip.

Reverse engineering the 76477 sound effect chip – [Link]

Inside the vintage 74181 ALU chip

Ken Shirriff writes:

The 74181 ALU (arithmetic/logic unit) chip powered many of the minicomputers of the 1970s: it provided fast 4-bit arithmetic and logic functions, and could be combined to handle larger words, making it a key part of many CPUs.

Inside the vintage 74181 ALU chip – [Link]

Bluetooth chip is only 4x4mm

by Julien Happich @ edn-europe.com:

Part of the Swatch group, EM Microelectronic announced what the company believes to be the world’s smallest Bluetooth chip. Offered in a 4x4mm QFN-28 package, in a WLCSP-21 or as a bare-die, the EM9304 is optimized for Bluetooth v4.2 low energy enabled products.