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…
STMicroelectronics recently launched the STM32L EnergyLite ultra-low-power MCUs. I caught up with Vinay Thapiyal, technical marketing manager, MCU’s, ST India, to learn more.
The highlights of this series of MCUs include a commitment for ultra-low power — the EnergyLite platform is common for 8-bit (STM8L) and 32-bit (STM32L) MCUs. Also, it is strong on pure energy efficiency, with high performance combined with ultra low power, i.e., high high energy saving. Finally, the ultra low power member in STM32 portfolio enriches both the STM32 ultra-low-power EnergyLite platform and the STM32 portfolio.
According to Thapliyal, STMicroelectronics has been involved in the MCU market for a long time. Off late, it has started focusing on the STM32 — the ARM Cortex based MCU and the STM8 — for 8-bit family. “We have started converging our old families into these two domains,” he added.
The STM32F is the foundation of the STM32 family. STM32F is a family of low power MCUs based on the 32-bit ARM Cortex M3 architecture.
The STM8 is a family of MCUs based on ST’s propritetary atchitecture. The STM32L is STMicroelectronics’ ultra low power family mainly used for portable and very low power applications.
The ultra-low-power EnergyLite platform, featuring the STM32L and the STM8L is based on STMicroelectronics’ 130 nm ultra-low-leakage process technology. They share common technology, architecture and peripherals. The STM8, which was launched in 2009, has caught on very fast. It is a high performance, low cost MCU.
He added that STMicroelectronics started with 130nm technology, and low pin count and low flash on STM8, while higher memory and high pin count is available on the STM32. Read more…
Measuring performance of carbon nanotubes as building blocks for ultra-tiny computer chips of the future
There is this really great story from IBM Research Labs that I simply have to seed here for my readers.
IBM’s scientists have created a method to measure the performance of carbon nanotubes as building blocks for ultra-tiny computer chips of the future. Of course, you can also read it on IBM Research Lab’s site as well as on CIOL’s semicon site.
IBM scientists have measured the distribution of electrical charges in tubes of carbon that measure less than 2nm in diameter, 50,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair.
This novel technique, which relies on the interactions between electrons and phonons, provides a detailed understanding of the electrical behavior of carbon nanotubes, a material that shows promise as a building block for much smaller, faster and lower power computer chips compared to today’s conventional silicon transistors.
Phonons are the atomic vibrations that occur inside material, and can determine the material’s thermal and electrical conductivity. Electrons carry and produce the current. Both are important features of materials that can be used to carry electrical signals and perform computations.
The interaction between electrons and phonons can release heat and impede electrical flow inside computer chips. By understanding the interaction of electrons and phonons in carbon nanotubes, the researchers have developed a better way to measure their suitability as wires and semiconductors inside of future computer chips.
In order to make carbon nanotubes useful in building logic circuitry, scientists are pushing to demonstrate their high speed, high packing density and low power consumption capabilities as well as the ability to make them viable for potential mass production.
Dr. Phaedon Avouris, IBM Fellow and lead researcher for IBM’s carbon nanotube efforts, said: “The success of nanoelectronics will largely depend on the ability to prepare well characterized and reproducible nano-structures, such as carbon nanotubes. Using this technique, we are now able to see and understand the local electronic behavior of individual carbon nanotubes.”
To date, researchers have been able to build carbon nanotube transistors with superior performance, but have been challenged with reproducibility issues. Carbon nanotubes are sensitive to environmental influences.
For example, their properties can be altered by foreign substances, affecting the flow of electrical current and changing device performance. These interactions are typically local and change the density of electrons in the various devices of an integrated circuit, and even along a single nanotube.
Geo Semiconductor Inc. has been enabling new markets that are changing the world. In automotive, it is into HUDs, Fisheye cameras and digital calibration. In cloud/Skype camera, it is into home monitoring, doorbell cameras, and Skype TV.
According to Brian Gannon, VP Marketing & Business Development, Geo is a four-year old company, built from 20+ years of development and $300 million+ investment. It has over 50+ customers in production worldwide. All of this IP allows Geo to provide unique, end-to-end solutions to create new markets. He was speaking at the ongoing 13th Global Electronics Summit at Santa Cruz, USA.
Geo has been creating better user experience with motion detection algorithm. Geo’s eWARP processor is a highly efficient hardware block that can be programmed to do any geometric transformation of pixels in real-time.
The eWARP processor is fundamental to camera and projection systems. For the camera, it is correcting distortions, such as wide angle, fisheye, lateral color, etc. It takes care of ePTZ, fisheye, panoramic dewarping and scaling. It is also stitching/blending cameras. Geo provides 3D alignment for stereoscopic cameras as well. Finally, it takes care of the camera optical alignment.
For the projection, the eWARP processor is correcting distortions such as projection optics and keystone correction. It also takes care of ultra short throw, stitching/blending – tiled displays, curved displays and color correction.
Geo provides the only solution that can concatenate multiple transforms. It does multiple independent geometric corrections. An example is enabling real-time ePTZ. There are custom layouts and views, along with real-time HD resolutions up to 60fps. There are up to eight multiple images.
Wide angle lens correction is possible with zero content loss. The heads-up display (HUD) solution corrects for windshield and projector. It simultaneously corrects for any distortion created by the windshield, projector or mirror — instantly and digitally. It removes any alignment parts and electronics in the HUD system. Calibration can be automated to save labor costs.
Geo’s powerful automation software also reduces labor costs and cycle time. For instance, a single eWARP IC can correct, align and dewarp four automotive VGA cameras.
According to Prof. Yi Cui, Dept. of Materials, Science & Engineering, Stanford University, nanometer is an enabling technology. We can do applications such as electronics, energy, environment and health. Some examples are high energy batteries, printed energy storage devices on paper, textile and sponge, etc. He was delivering the inaugural address at the Globalpress Electronics Summit 2013, being held in Santa Cruz, USA.
High energy battery has portable and stationary applications. In portable, energy density, cost and safety are important. In stationary, cost, power, energy efficiency and ultra-long life are important. The standard is 500 cycles at 80 percent. One of the challenges of silicon anodes is that Si has 4200 mAh/g of silicon, 10 times more than carbon.
Nanowires can offer shorter distance for Li diffusion (high power), good strain release and interface control (for better cycle life), and continuous electron transport pathway (high power). In-situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Double walled hollow structure provides stable solid electrolyte interphase (SEI). The outer surface is static. Amprius, where Prof. Cui is CTO, is a $6 million US government funded enterprise. Amprius China started in Nanjing, in April 2012.
Another example is printed energy storage devices on paper, textile and sponge. For low-cost scaffold, paper, textile and sponge, are used. There is cellulose paper and synthetic textile, besides sponge, as well.
There can be transparent batteries. It is actually very hard to develop those. The challenges for making a transparent battery are Al film, cathode, electrolyte, etc. An idea: dimension smaller than eye’s detection limit (50-100 um). Also, grids are well aligned.
Transparent conducting electrodes provide electrical and allow light to pass through. Apps include solar cells, etc. Indium tin oxide (ITO) has a low abundance of indium, brittleness when bent, and sputtering at high cost. Electrospinning of nanofibers is done for transparent electrodes. An example is the trough-shaped nanowires.
Yet another example is the water nanofilters for killing pathogens. The processes available for killing bacteria include chemical disinfection, UV disinfection, boiling, etc.
The first generation product is currently ready at Amprius. Amprius licensed the IP from Stanford. Stanford is also an investor in Amprius.
Sensor fusion encompasses hardware and software elements. There can be many data sources, such as MEMS. non-MEMS, etc.
The obvious question: why sensor fusion? Tony Massimini, chief of technology, Semico Research Corp., USA, said that it is useful for power savings, and the initial reason was to improve accuracy and reliability of inertial measurement units (IMUs, etc. If we look at the progression of sensors to sensor fusion, there have been simple interrupts such as screen orientation, tap detection, fall detection, and so on. IMUs are available for location-based services (LBS) and navigation, and IMUs are available and other data sources, etc.
Senosr fusion enhances user experience with portable devices. The growth is driven by smartphones. Competing devices will add more features to keep up with smartphones such as tablets, notebooks (ultraportables). Key growth markets today will provide basis for future end use markets (see graph: systems with sensor fusion). The market will likely grow at CAGR of 58.8 percent till 2016.
New end use markets and applications include areas such as gaming, HUD (heads-up display), sports, health and fitness, personal navigation, personal medical, context awareness, voice recognition, visual recognition, augmented reality and automation.
Sensor fusion is used for enhancing the user experience. For instance, add data to 3D axes frame of reference. Sensor fusion offers always ON and low latency. You can also connect to external sensors — wearable for health and fitness. Life tagging is possible too, e.g. photo and video library for context aware services. Next, there is improved security with biometrics.
Summarizing the sensor fusion market, the MEMS sensor ASPs continue to erode. There are an increasing number of sensors. There are improved MEMS sensors, including hardware accelerators. There is interaction with cloud for data. It also enables application innovations. Finally, there are new end use markets.
I had the pleasure of interacting many times with Norman CM Lui, CEO, Skymos back in 2006. Established 1983, Skymos Electronics Ltd is one of the foremost designers and manufacturers of chip components, specializing in multilayer chip inductors, ferrite chip beads, multilayer chip ceramic capacitors, chip resistors and resistor networks. It has been awarded ISO 9001 and 9002 approval.
It was among the few suppliers offering multilayer chip inductors, ferrite chip beads, chip resistors, low-temperature co-fired ceramic capacitors (LTCC), etc.
Back then, he spoke of the applications of MLCCs that were generally in Bluetooth, GPS, cable TV equipment, satellite, etc. For example, taxis plying with GPS would need high Q (quality) MLCCs. New applications include converged handsets, MP4 players, PS3, digital cameras and video cameras; flat-panel high-definition TVs; dual-core multiprocessors (for motherboards, notebooks, desktop PCs and scanners); and automotive electronics.
Lui said most suppliers were more concerned about the 3H – high capacitance, high voltage and high frequency – for MLCCs, as well as high Q (quality factor). The frequency of MLCCs had become much higher as the termination is done on the top, instead of the sides.
Various types of dielectric were being used for MLCCs – such as the BaTiO3, NP0/C0G, XSR/X7R and Y5V/Z5U, respectively. The X5R allowed more capacitance for MLCCs and dielectric constant (K) was higher. The NP0/C0G group supported capacitance ranging from 1pF to 1µF and up to 10nF.
As for the electrodes, Pd/Ag was being used and Ni was also being used currently. For Pd/Ag electrode, the termination was in Ag/Ni/Sn. For Ni electrode, termination was mainly in Cu/Ni/Sn. Skymos is currently focusing on the Pd/Ag electrodes for MLCCs.
One major development was the use of BME (base metal electrode). Lui said that moving from the current electrode to BME would require lot of investment of about $50 million. For using BME, suppliers would need to install all new equipment, especially for the furnace, which would be used to oxidize the Ni element.
Another development has been the improvement in capacitance. Using BME for 0402, suppliers can produce MLCCs with high capacitance, such as 2.2µF, 3.3µF/6.3V, etc. Earlier, capacitance was 0.47µF using Pd/Ag electrode. The BME could enable higher capacitance due to an increase in the number of active layers.
For instance, the dielectric was 8-10 microns when using Pd/Ag electrodes. Using BME, the dielectric became 2-3 microns. The corresponding values for 0603 type is 10µF/6.3V using BME, 47µF for 0805, and 220µF for 1206. MLCCs have replaced those applications that previously required tantalum capacitors.
Another development has been the advent of the MLCC array, which has more applications in the PC industry. This array can reduce the EMI. Skymos is offering this MLCC array. It also improves the high Q, voltage and capacitance.
On the issue of MLCCs vs. ultracapacitors, Lui said, suppliers could already reach up to 220µF capacitance via MLCC, which were replacing tantalum capacitors. The tantalum capacitors were now being used for applications requiring 220µF-330µF capacitance. As a result, all other types of capacitors were dropping in demand, as compared to MLCCs. Ultracapacitors were intended to replace the Ni battery. However, there has also been a shift to oxide batteries.
The supplier’s R&D strategy includes focusing on 3H and possibly, BME. It also reduced the insulation loss and noise by grounding. The MLCC combined a capacitor and a filter. I hope Skymos has produced 20KV MLCCs. It was already offering 10KV MLCCs.
Most of this data actually appeared in Global Sources Electronics Components magazine in 2006!
Thanks to Sheryl Gulizia, senior manager, Worldwide Public Relations, Synopsys Inc., I was able to connect with John Chilton, senior VP of Marketing and Strategic Development, Synopsys. We discussed the global (and Indian) outlook for the semiconductor industry in detail. Dr. Aart De Geus was apparently away on a business meet.
According to Chilton, the semiconductor industry has repeatedly stared down the daunting technical challenges caused by the necessity of Moore’s Law and the inevitability of the laws of physics. Every time, the industry has risen to the challenge and delivered silicon that is smaller, faster and cheaper, and the design and systems companies that were quickest to exploit the new technologies reaped the great benefit.
Power dissipation challenging
One trend that has proven to be especially challenging is power dissipation. Although transistors get smaller, faster and cheaper, chip power keeps increasing. Increasing power and decreasing size could have caused device-melting energy densities, but the industry rose to the challenge with more innovative physics along with smarter design methods and tools.
This time around, the challenge seems more fundamental, with the new nodes offering either better performance or lower power, but not both at the same time, and maybe not at a lower cost. The fundamental driving factor behind innovation has been smaller, faster and cheaper transistors, with the cheaper part making the migration a no-brainer. Unfortunately, this time the new node is not expected to be cheaper.
App processors to drive move to 20nm
Application processors for mobile and cloud-based services will drive the move to 20nm. These applications have the volume and power/performance needs to justify the expected investment required to embrace the 20nm node. Recent product announcements at CES underscore the emergence of the ‘cloud to mobile client’ trend in consumer electronics.
Dell and Wyse unveiled the project Ophelia. Ophelia is a USB memory stick-sized thin client that will plug into any compatible TV or Dell monitor. The device will boot into an Android OS and turn any TV into a portal to access a computer somewhere else. Ophelia works by taking advantage of the MHL protocol and works with any MHL-enabled display. Over 100-million MHL-compliant chipsets have already been shipped, so the opportunities for this type of interaction are growing.
MHL, along with established standards such as USB and HDMI or even future short-range wireless standards, will enable consumers to plug their cell phone into any monitor or TV and consume content via their phone on a larger, more satisfying display.
Coincidentally, on the same day, Samsung announced consumer displays that utilize voice and gesture recognition. These emerging technologies will begin to redefine the way we interact with the cloud. Instead of carrying a laptop, you may end up waving and talking to a TV. In a futuristic presentation, Lexus showed a prototype of a laser-scanning system that is small enough to be mounted on a grill and makes 3-D maps of the environment surrounding a car. This kind of embedded vision technology will make its way into more devices as processor performance increases.
Chilton said that developing such complex systems and applications require a robust verification solution. Chip designers already use complex and exhaustive test benches to test individual blocks and subsystems. Verification engineers will need to move up to the next level and handle the full verification of the SoC within a target system.
Verification of an integrated system will require an integrated verification solution that includes not just simulation but also acceleration, emulation and formal debug. A new, integrated verification platform should combine these existing discrete technologies to offer the productivity needed to realize complex systems with predictable, manageable schedules.
Delivering the hardware simultaneously with a working OS and development kit will require virtual prototypes, which will be used by software developers prior to the release of working hardware.
The global market of medical image sensors will grow from $68 million in 2011 to $112 million in 2017, a growth of 64.7 percent. Whereas the contribution in value of the global endoscopy market represents only a few 10 percent of the medical image sensors market in 2011, 90 percent is related to x-ray applications.
These are among some of the conclusions drawn by Benjamin Roussel, technology and market analyst – MedTech, Yole Développement, France, in a seminar on how CCD, CMOS and a-Si are reshaping the global medical imaging market.
He added that image sensor innovations are reshaping the medical imaging industry as it permit the entry of news market players, the development of news products in line with both patient and physicians requirements. The medical image sensors market is currently evolving. Emerging technologies are expected to go mainstream in the future, fueled by new applications with high growth rates.
X-ray and endoscopy apps
Medical applications are vast and numerous, such as microscopy, endoscopy, x-ray based methods, MRI, ultrasound imaging and nuclear medicine. Medical image sensors are integrated into larger products — medical devices. Depending on the market the medical device aims for, the image sensors functions change. For example, while power consumption is critical for camera pill devices, for reusable endoscopes it’s temperature and humidity resistance.
The objective of the segmentation is to organize the medical image sensors market into well defined segments. Each one of those have their own drivers and set of requirements, and identify which applications present a real opportunity for micro-system technologies. X-ray image sensors price are, on average, 1,000 times larger than endoscopic image sensors.
Dynamics of image sensors
The global medical image sensor market will grow from $68 million in 2011 to $112 million in 2017. The global medical image sensors market in volume will grow from 1.4 Munits in 2011 to 4.6 Munits in 2017, fueled by emerging endoscopy products: camera pills and disposable endoscopes.
The CCD medical image sensors market dedicated to endoscopy will grow from $4 million in 2011 to $5 million in 2017. In parallel, the total CMOS medical image sensors market will continue to grow sharply from $1 million in 2011 to $3.5 million in 2017. The medical IS market for x-ray application will grow from $63 million to $103 million in 2017. The CMOS x-ray image sensors revenue will continue to grow at a 12 percent CAGR 2012-2017 and reach $44 million in 2017.
Medical image sensors technology is the gateway for new entrants in endoscopy market. CMOS camera, 3D imaging and multispectral are the three different trends that will shape the future of endoscopes. Likewise, the current move to CMOS, the move from indirect to direct conversion of x-ray (no scintillator, no fiber optic plate), and the move toward single photon detectors are the trends likely to shape the future of x-ray systems.