At the recently held International Electronics Forum (IEF) 2010, organized by Future Horizons in Dresden, Germany, Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager, MEMS, Sensors and High Performance Analog Division, STMicroelectronics, made a wonderful presentation on how MEMS can be useful for the human body, especially from the medical electronics point of view.
MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) is a three-dimensional device embedded in silicon, and uses silicon’s mechanical (and electrical) properties. It supports multifunctional systems of actuators, electronics and sensors.
Three critical waves of MEMS
Vigna highlighted the three very important waves of MEMS — automotive airbags, consumerization, and MEMS in, on, around the body! The last part especially is the most interesting one!
Automotive airbags formed the 1st wave of MEMS. The application supported big and not-so-precise accelerometers. Additional automotive applications followed, such as tyre pressure sensors and stability control. Vigna heralded consumerization as the 2nd wave of MEMS. There have been high-volume fabrication techniques, leading to higher performance/greater reliability at lower costs. He specifically pointed out the ‘Wii effect’! In this case, the high-volume commitment of vendors + UI benefits led to consumerization of MEMS.
Vigna added that MEMS has seen a speeding spiral of success in recent times. Earlier, it took 25 years from labs to fabs. Now, three product generations are developed and released in 12 months!
Another instance or example of the 2nd MEMS wave include the move from keyboard and mouse to free motion. In this case, the MEMS sensors change interaction with consumer electronics and propel new applications. There are now:
* Motion user interfaces in phones, games and remotes.
* Advanced navigation and location-based services.
* Free-fall protection in portable devices.
Vigna focused a moment on the MEMS motion sensors market 2009-2013 and the MEMS market. As far as the MEMS motion sensors market is concerned, accelerometers are likely to grow at 14.5 percent CAGR for the period 2009-2013. On the other hand, gyroscopes are likely to grow at 17.3 percent CAGR during 2009-2013.
Cell phones and CE is the major market segment in both cases, registering 19.5 percent CAGR and 25.4 percent CAGR, respectively, followed by automotive at 10.7 percent CAGR and 12.3 percent CAGR, respectively.
It is to be noted that in 2009, the overall MEMS market was almost flat compared to 2008, but volumes rose significantly, showing increasing penetration of MEMS in consumer devices.
Current trends in MEMS
Coming on to the current trends, MEMS is now pushing the limits of size and power — motion sensors are squeezing the footprint to 2×2 mm and current consumption well below 10uA in full operating mode. Multiple sensor integration is another trend. The integration of motion, magnetic, pressure and temperature sensors in a single package brings more degrees of freedom.
Embedded intelligence is the third key trend. The on-chip processing capabilities are enabling smart autonomous sensors and decreasing power consumption at the system level. Finally, software, is now the ‘S’ in MEMS! Vigna said that hardware and software integration is a key added value and differentiating factor. Read more…
Skin inspired electronics can be used for mobile health such as wireless sensor bands, cell phone and computer at doctor’s office, according to Prof. Zhenan Bao, Stanford University. She was delivering the inaugural lecture on day two of the ongoing 13th Global Electronics Summit in Santa Cruz, USA.
There are organic field-effect transistors (OTFTs). The current flow is moderated by binding of molecules and pressure. E-skin sensor functions have touch (pressure) sensors, chemical sensors and biological sensors. There are other flexible pressure sensors such as conductive rubber, which is thick and has hysteresis. Another type is poly-vinylidene fluoride (PVDF) thin film. Yet another type is the OTFT touch (pressure) sensor.
There is an example of the heart pulse measurement. Another related device is the full pulse wave for medical diagnostics such as blood pressure monitoring, detecting arrhythmia, heart defects and vascular diseases. In terms of temperature sensing, Stanford has developed a flexible body temperature sensor made of plastic.
There is chemical sensing as well. These are very stable and can be put in sea water. There are also electronics to mimic the body, such as the biodegradable OTFT. Another example is the transparent, stretchable pressure sensor. Finally, the other attribute of the human skin is self healing. Stanford University also developed the all-self-healing e-skin.
The e-skin concept ‘Super Skin’ has touch pressure sensors, chemical or biological sensors in air – electronic nose and liquid environments – electronic tongue, flexible strechable materials, biocompatible or biodegradable, self-powered — strechable solar cells and self healing.
At a MEMS Industry Group seminar in Orlando, US, Alexander Govyadinov, lead technologist, Hewlett-Packard Printing & Technology Development Organization said microfluidics looks at the movement of small amounts of fluids through microchannels.
The current microfluidic applications include pharmaceutical and life science research, clinical and veterinary diagnostics, human point-of-care, analytical devices, environment and industrial testing, and inhalers, micropumps and microneedles.
The microfluidic segment has been growing at 20 percent CAGR. By 2016, the $4.7 billion market size refers to the over 1 billion microfluidic chips and substrates. The GM for synthetic biology reached $1 billion in 2012.
Every fluidic system needs a pump. Although external pumps are commonly used, there is lack of simple, cheap and easy-to-integrate mcro-pumps.
There is passive capillary pump operation using capillaty retention valve (CRV). In a capillary-driven microfluidic device the chip is composed of microfluidic functional elements. There are rotary pumps as well. Rotating gears can be hard to integrate and require strong external actuators. Mostly, external pumps are available. There are pneumatic/membrane micropumps as well as external piezo pumps and active pumps.
In a thermal inkjet (TIJ), the voltage pulse heats the resistor and boils the fluid. Once, the droplet has been ejected, the chamber is refilled by capillary forces. HP has an inertial pump for microfluidics. There exists a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) inertial pump model. An optimal resistor location is available. There are 2mmx512 pump-channel arrays.
Vison for future micropump applications include generic fluidic network with reversible pumps. Pumps’ densities can be up to 1000 per inch2. There are concepts such as polymerase chain reactor and u-calorimeter total analysis system.
Microfluidics is a growing field. Inertial pump is a new way to move fluids through microchannels.
Frédéric Breussin, Yole Developpement, an expert in microfluidics for diagnostics and life sciences, recently presented on MEMS devices driving healthcare applications.
According to him, microsystem technologies are changing the healthcare industry. New in-vitro diagnostic systems, new therapy strategies, genetic disease treatment, targeted and intelligent drug delivery, artificial pancreas, drug discovery processes are healthcare improvements promised to future generations.
Microsystem devices, including MEMS devices, SI based sensors, Microfluidic chips and Bio sensors find many applications in healthcare markets:
* Pharmaceutical research market ($870 billion worldwide 2010),
* In-vitro diagnostics ($57 billion worldwide 2010),
* Medical devices ($255 billion worldwide 2010), and
* Medical home care ($54 billion worldwide 2010).
Within these applications, the MEMS/microsystem technologies market for healthcare will grow from $1.4 billion in 2010 to $4.5 billion in 2015, which represents over 1 billion units per year in 2015. The largest markets are microfluidic devices and bio-sensors for diagnostic and pharmaceutical applications. However, one should keep in mind that the unit price is relatively high, and that the microfluidic market is very segmented in terms of “biological” applications and players. Read more…
The Department of IT, Government of India, recently organized a workshop on electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM), conducted by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA). Dr. Ajay Kumar, joint secretary, Dept. of IT, Government of India, touched upon some major initiatives to promote ESDM. These include:
* Setting up two semiconductor wafer fabs for manufacture of chips.
* Introducing Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme to encourage manufacture of high-priority electronic products in India.
* Provide incentives for setting up of electronics manufacturing clusters.
* Setting up of the National Electronics Mission (NEM).
* Providing Preferential Market Access to domestically manufactured electronics products for government procurement and procurement by government licensees.
* Setting up of “Electronic Development Fund”.
Some of the other initiatives to promote ESDM include:
* Draft National Policy for Electronics, 2011 released for public consultation on October 3, 2011. Comments invited till end October.
* Additional items included under ESDM for benefit of Special Focus Scheme under the Foreign Trade Policy recently.
* Mandating health and safety standards for 16 major electronic items under finalization in consultation with BIS.
* Private sector participation in human resource development being promoted.
* Sector specific initiatives for set-top boxes, medical electronics, avionics, industrial electronics, automotive electronics, LEDs, strategic electronics for defense, space and nuclear.
* Awareness creation and interest generation domestically and globally.
* Renaming the Department as Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY).
The semiconductor design industry in India consists of VLSI design, board/hardware design and embedded software development. The size was estimated at $6.5 billion in 2009 and is expected to log a CAGR of 17.3 percent over the next three years to reach $10.6 billion in 2012. Nearly 2,000 chips are being designed each year and more than 20,000 engineers being engaged in various aspects of chip designing and verification. Read more…
This morning, I woke up to find the headline staring at me: Steve Jobs has died! RIP, Steve Jobs!
I first had a look at the Apple Mac while at SBP Consultants & Engineers back in 1988. I was pleasantly surprised to find a computer that could do desktop publishing that well! By then, Jobs had gone out of Apple, fired by John Sculley, then Apple’s CEO, sometime in 1985.
Jobs only returned to Apple in 1996, a time when he had floated PIXAR and of course, NeXT — the company that Apple eventually bought and with that, returned Jobs to Apple. The rest, as they say, is history!
First, Jobs, and of course, Apple, brought color to computers, when the iMac line was launched. I remember seeing the entire line in Hong Kong! The iMacs were followed by the ‘now very well known’ iBook!
Next, Jobs focused on the music industry, and that led to the creation of the revolutionary iPod, as well as the Apple Store. I remember several suppliers in Hong Kong and China telling me that they were grateful to Apple for ‘rewriting the musical devices history’ with the iPod. Those suppliers were very much in business, and continue to remain so, till today.
And then, the iPhone happened in 2007! The iPhone 4S, launched yesterday, serves as a reminder of Jobs’ vision and strategy. The iPhone caught everyone in the telecom industry napping! Suddenly, there was a rush to produce iPhone clones or iPhone-like phones. Of course, this also hit a major telecom player in a big way!
Today, smartphones are all the rage! But, believe it or not, no one, yes, no one, has actually come close to what Apple and Steve Jobs have managed to do with the iPhone.
The revolutionary iPad, which hit the streets in 2010, literally gave a new lease of life to computing! It also opened a new section – tablets – in front of the computing world. Today, all of the tablets that you get to see from numerous players is only because of Jobs’ and Apple’s magnificient vision!
This August, Jobs stepped down as Apple’s CEO. Who knew that he would pass away to eternity in early October? There is a message on Apple’s site, which I am pasting here:
“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”
At an ISA CXO Conclave, Luc Van den hove, president and CEO, imec, said that we need to work toward a sustainable future. Started in 1984, Leuven, Belgium-based imec performs world leading research in nanoelectronics. He touched upon some research programs currently undertaken by imec.
Green radio is for low-power wireless communications. Technologies would be 1000K energy efficient. He added: “We are also developing low cost, low-power reconfigurable radios. Further, we feel that videos will dominate mobile phones.”
Another innovation, E-Nose, can be used for air quality, safety, food and well being. Human++ BAN life sciences, is yet another innovation. Now, the cost of healthcare is said to be exploding. By 2030, over 1 billion people will be over 65+ years. imec is developing body area network. According to imec, wearable wireless sensors can grow to over $400 million by 2014.
imec is working on technologies ranging from bio sensors to lab-on-chip. “We are also working on implantable devices such as microprobes,” said Van den hove. imec is also working on the NVision technology. According to estimates, there will likely be 78.1 million 3D TVs by 2012. Van den hove said, “we are developing holographic visualization.”
On energy, he said that renewable energy was growing in importance. “We are working on solar, storage, switching, etc. As an example, we have replaced Ag (silver) with Cu (copper) metallization.” Organic solar cells is yet another technology imec’s working on.”
In power electronics, imec is working on GaN power devices. “We also have a program for boosting chip performance and system functionality,” he added. “We are also exploring the third dimension — DRAM on logic.”
CMORE, is said to be more than CMOS, as well as MEMS, sensors, photonics, SiGe based metals/devices. In organic electronics, imec and Holst have developed the first plastic microprocessor, which was introduced in 2011. imec has research programs for full ecosystems as well.
Van den hove noted: “We also celebrate the launch of imec India. We want to develop sustainable nanoelectronic solutions. For example, rural India drives the mobile phone growth. India is also driving e-health.” In Arise Labs, imec has provided the nanoelectronic platform, technology and design expertise, application programming and strong industry network.
Rich Beyer, chairman and CEO, Freescale Semiconductor, at the Freescale Technology Forum 2011, in Bangalore, India.
Prior to this year’s FTF, Freescale marked another milestone in our company’s history. We have returned to the public trading arena with our IPO on May 26. We used the proceeds from the IPO to pay down a portion of our debt and reduce our interest expense. This will enable Freescale to continue to grow our investments in products, software, sales and customer support. We are confident, as a result, we will continue to offer you even better world class solutions.
Having publicly traded stock will also give us more flexibility than just available cash to fund potential acquisitions and future innovation investments that will reinforce our competitive differentiation moving forward. And, the IPO is a strong affirmation that Freescale is on a very successful trajectory in the eyes of the investment community! While we have changed to become a publicly traded company, we have not changed our vision or our strategic focus. Our vision remains the same: we are committed to being the leader in embedded processing solutions.
We will continue to build on our market leadership positions by focusing on our core strengths: embedded processors, applications processors, microcontrollers and DSPs; RF, analog and sensors; and the software that delivers a clear competitive advantage to our customers.
Era of connected intelligence
Over the past several years, we have entered the era of connected intelligence where embedded processing is driving the Internet of Things. In the PC era of the past, processing was centralized within a traditional computing environment. Users relied heavily on computing hardware and rigid software to perform desired tasks.
In today’s era of connected intelligence, data is ubiquitous, and we expect our electronic devices to conform to us. We want them to be social and mobile. They are aware of our surroundings, and they understand and adapt to the context in which we are using them. They are always on and they are always with us.
We are at an inflection point in what is driving semiconductor innovation. In the PC era, the focus was on the sheer performance of the processor. The power consumption implications were handled by a building bigger box, adding a cooling fan or using a larger battery.
In the era of Connected Intelligence, embedded processing performance needs to be balanced with power efficiency, and system capability is enabled by the intelligent integration of sensor, RF and analog interfaces and the usage of efficient, system sparing software.
The insatiable demand for connectivity will continue to push the industry for solutions that deliver more performance, improved efficiency and lower operating costs. Semiconductor innovation now is being driven by embedded processing solutions with a system-level view and developed with an application-level expertise that is critical to efficient and timely implementation. Read more…
STMicroelectronics has introduced the STM32L advanced ultra-low-power Cortex-M3 based MCU platform.
Built on cutting-edge proprietary process – robustness, it is part of a wide 32-bit product portfolio. The MCU platform is based on the just-enough energy concept and has an all inclusive package applications.
STM32L 32- to 128-Kbyte products are entering full production in the second half of March 2011. It is part of the industry’s largest ARM Cortex-M 32-bit microcontroller family with six STM32 families. STMicroelectronics is developing the STM32L portfolio up to 384 Kbytes of embedded memory. The STM32L is also Continua ready for its USB peripheral driver.
STM32L’s robustness has been derived from an automotive qualified process. It is all inclusive for ultra-low-power applications, and comes with hardware integrated features and software library packages. STM32L also has a ‘just-enough energy concept’, which includes undervolting, user controlled and an innovative architecture, all of this for less than 1 µA.
ST’s ultra-low-power EnergyLite platform features ST’s 130nm ultra-low-leakage process technology. It makes use of shared technology, architecture and peripherals. The company’s ultra-low-power portfolio for 2011 will be in production second half of March 2011. Many others will also be in production in the second half of April 2011. In fact, there will be over 100 part numbers from 4- to 384-Kbyte flash, and from 20 to 144 pins.
STM32L is based on ultra-low-power architecture, which is all inclusive for ultra low power applications. It also features ultra-low voltage, with power supply down to 1.8 V with BOR and also down to 1.65 V without BOR.The analog functional can be down to 1.8 V and the reprogramming capability can be down to 1.65 V.
STM32L is also flexible and secure, featuring +/- 0.5 percent internal clock accuracy when trimmed by RTC oscillator. It has up to five clock sources and has the MSI to achieve very low power consumption at seven low frequencies.
It also feattures dynamic voltage scaling in Run mode. The voltage scaling optimizes the product efficiency. User selects a mode (voltage scaling) according to external VDD supply, DMIPS performance required and maximum power consumption. It features the energy saving mode as well, down to 171 µA/DMIPS from Flash in Run mode. Read more…