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www.newelectronics.co.uk

The magazine for electronic design engineers

22 February 2011

SANDY BRIDGE IN SBCS QUAD CORE NETWORK PROCESSOR DIGITAL CONTROL IN PSUS

Taking
advantage
of noise
Far from being the problem that
everyone believes, electrical
noise could be the way
forward for the
semiconductor industry

CLICK. FIND. BUY.

WWW.DIGIKEY.CO.UK

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Contents Vol 44 No 4

Cover Story

14

Whats all this noise about?


Far from being the problem everyone believes, electrical noise
could be the way forward for the semiconductor industry
Automotive Electronics

14

Boom in demand for


smartphones keeps
us hanging on the
telephone

18

Keeping control

News

Lithium ion batteries for automotive applications need


sophisticated monitoring schemes

Agilent creates
scope on an asic in
order to address the
economy scope
market.

Directives & Standards

29

Regulations retrospective
A round up of recent legislative developments that
electronic engineers need to be aware of
Board Level Technology
6

Comment

33

Cores for celebration


Intels second generation Core processors have been welcomed
by companies developing board level products
Processors

36

Serving a purpose
The ARM architectures low power consumption is attracting the
attention of companies addressing the server market

Alcatel-Lucent looks
to banish
basestations by
distributing their
functionality
Distributor
addresses growing
need for power
supply design
support

18
Power

39

Easing design headaches


How programmable power supplies can meet specific
requirements without the need for custom hardware
Marketwatch

22

42

New Electronics monthly round up of component pricing


and availability
Technology Watch

Timing is everything

22

When youre writing embedded software, its important


for things to happen when you want them to

State of flux
39

www.newelectronics.co.uk

How more accurate control of ac motors could save


significant amounts of power

26

Altera set to grow


UK engineering
headcount to
provide customers
with system
solutions
Banknotes which
light up and large
area lighting
products are some
of the potential
applications for
plastic electronics
discussed at a
recent seminar

22 February 2011

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Energy Harvesting Now

Free Power from Thermal, Kinetic & Solar Energy


Our new analog IC solutions enable the commercial deployment of energy harvesting from a variety of free energy sources.
An appropriate transducer placed on the energy source delivers an electrical signal that our products convert and condition
into usable power. These revolutionary ICs consume only nanoamps of current to provide high efficiency power conversion
with minimal external components.

Info and Purchase Direct at

Energy Harvesting IC Family


Part Number Description

Energy Source

LTC3105

400mA boost converter with MPP control and 250mV start-up

LTC3108

Ultralow voltage boost converter and system manager

LTC3109

Auto-polarity version of LTC3108

LTC3588

Piezoelectric energy harvesting power supply

LT 3652/HV Power tracking 2A solar battery charger

LTC4070

Nanoamp operating current shunt Li-Ion battery charger

www.linear.com/energyharvesting

Linear Technology (UK) Ltd.,


3 The Listons, Liston Road,
Marlow, Buckinghamshire,
SL7 1FD, United Kingdom.
Phone: 01628 477066
Fax: 01628 478153
Email: uksales@linear.com
Visit: www.linear.com

Franchised Distributors, UK and Ireland

Linear Technology (UK) Ltd. 01628 477066


Arrow Electronics UK Ltd
01279 626777

, LT, LTC, LTM, Linear Technology and the Linear logo are
registered trademarks of Linear Technology Corporation. All other
trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

NuHorizons Electronics Ltd


Farnell

02476 437437
08447 11 11 11

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Comment

Hanging on the
telephone
Group Editor: Graham Pitcher
Web Editor: Chris Shaw
Online Editorial Assistant: Laura Hopperton
Contributing Editors:
David Boothroyd, Chris Edwards,
Louise Joselyn, Roy Rubenstein
Art Editor: Martin Cherry
Illustrator: Phil Holmes
Key Account Director: Tricia Bodsworth
Classified Sales: James Slade
Circulation Manager: Chris Jones
(circulation@findlay.co.uk)
Production Controller: Nicki McKenna
Publisher: Peter Ring
Executive Director: Ed Tranter
Represented in Japan by:
Shinano International: Kazuhiko Tanaka,
Akasaka Kyowa Bldg, 1-6-14 Akasaka,
Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107-0052
Tel: +81(0)3 3584 6420
New Electronics: Tel: 01322 221144
Fax: 01322 221188
www.newelectronics.co.uk
email: ne@findlay.co.uk

ISSN 0047-9624
New Electronics, incorporating
Electronic Equipment News and Electronics
News, is published twice monthly by
Findlay Media Ltd,
Hawley Mill, Hawley Road,
Dartford, Kent, DA2 7TJ
Copyright 2011 Findlay Media.
Annual subscription (22 issues)
for readers in the UK is 106,
overseas is 161, and airmail is 197.
Origination by
CTT, Walthamstow, London E17 6BU.
Printed in England by
Wyndeham Heron Ltd, Heybridge, CM9 4NW.

Moving on? If you change jobs or your


company moves, please contact
circulation@findlay.co.uk to continue
.
receiving your free copy of New Electronics

www.newelectronics.co.uk

Booming demand for smartphones is


creating bottlenecks

rowth in demand for smartphones is having a big effect on the mobile and wired
networks, so much so that worries are being aired about the ability to support the
projected number of users.
The problem is the mobile phone network was designed to carry voice traffic; even
text messages were not considered in the early days. Today, the mobile phone network
carries more than 6billion text messages every day and more than 200million phones
calls are in progress at any time.
Accessing the web via a smartphone needs bandwidth and not enough of that is
available via the traditional macro basestation. Building more macro basestations is
generally not an option particularly in cities so smaller cells need to be created; step
forward things like the femtocell. Even if you can get mobile service via a femtocell, the
data still has to be backhauled and calls are being made for the UK to invest in the fibre
optic backbone.
Its no surprise, then, to find technology companies scrambling to develop solutions
ahead of the crunch. Last weeks Mobile World Congress in Barcelona saw the usual tidal
wave of new phones and the like, but some headlines were stolen by the hardware that
will enable tomorrows mobile phone system. Companies like Qualcomm were
discussing quad core chips which increase data capacity substantially, while Freescale
launched the Qonverge family, designed to increase capacity at all points in the
basestation hierarchy. Meanwhile, Alcatel Lucent unveiled lightRadio, a concept in which
the components of a macro basestation are distributed throughout the cell, with data
backhauled via microwave links.
Will we see macro basestations disappear in the near future? Probably not, but the
way in which our mobile phones access the networks hidden behind the scenes will
change dramatically in the coming years.

Graham Pitcher, Group Editor (gpitcher@findlay.co.uk)

22 February 2011

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News Test & Measurement

Briefs
Tabula uses the
cloud
FPGA start up Tabula has unveiled software
which supports designers in the use of its Abax
family. Called Stylus, the software is delivered via
cloud computing. Alain Bismuth, vp of marketing,
said: We have already deployed Stylus on a
number of customer applications and this has
given us the confidence that Stylus is ready for
production.
According to Tabula, Stylus maintains a
design flow familiar to fpga users. Bismuth
claimed: We have made a lot of effort to make it
look like the familiar asic and fgpa tools, but with
delivery through the cloud, it will have a better
user experience.
Rajeev Jayaraman, vp of software
development, said Tabula had enjoyed the
benefit of building Stylus from the ground up.
There is an integrated cockpit featuring a tab
based browser, with each tab giving a different
view of the design.
Tabula is hosting the service on Tier 4 data
centres, with each customers data stored on
different servers.

Fraunhofer
develops
fingerprints
In a bid to address the problem of counterfeit
chips, researchers from the Fraunhofer Research
Institute are developing tailor made security
technology that uses a components individual
material properties to generate a digital key.
Researchers say the innovation will provide
components with a digital fingerprint.
According to Fraunhofer scientist Dominik
Merli: Every component has a kind of individual
fingerprint, since small differences inevitably
arise between components during production.
While these variations do not affect functionality,
they can be used to generate a unique code.
Merli said a module is integrated directly into
a device. At its heart is a measuring circuit, for
instance a ring oscillator. This generates a
characteristic clock signal, which allows the
chips precise material properties to be
determined. Special electronic circuits then read
the measurement data and generate the
component specific key from the data.

22 February 2011

ASICs power new scopes


Agilent makes major launch into economy scope market.
Graham Pitcher reports.
In a move described as one the most
significant for the company in the last 10
years, Agilent has expanded its oscilloscope
portfolio with the launch of the InfiniiVision
2000 and 3000 X-series, comprising 26
models. The scopes take advantage of asic
technology to offer the performance
expected of more expensive devices.
Peter Kasenbacher, European product line
manager for oscilloscopes, said: Its a huge
market, with hundreds of thousands of units
shipping and one in which Agilent hasnt
been strong. Already, orders are double what we expected and we believe the range will be very successful.
Jay Alexander, general manager of Agilents Digital Test division, said: We have integrated oscilloscope
functionality into a 90nm cmos asic. The asic, which features 6million gates and 40Mbit of embedded
dram, can support up to 1m updates per second. It also supports hardware serial decode.
The 2000 X-series has an entry point at 830. Members of the 2000-X series feature two or four
channels, with bandwidth ranging from 70 to 200MHz. Sample rates can reach 2Gsample/s, while maximum
memory is 100kpts. The display is updated at 50k waveform/s.
The 3000-X range is also available in two and four channel options, with bandwidth ranging from 100 to
500MHz. Signals can be sampled at up to 4Gsample/s and there is 4Mpt of memory. The update rate is 1m
waveform/s. Both families can also operate in mixed signal (MSO) mode. The 2000-X range features eight
digital channels, while the 3000-X range has 16.

Board features 64 cores on two processors


Kontron has launched a 40Gbit Ethernet packet processor blade in the ATCA formet. The AT8242, which
features two of Cavium Networks OCTEON II cnMIPS64 multicore processors. Each of these features 32
cores. The board offers more than 85 L3 to L7 application acceleration engines, virtualisation features,
100Gbit/s of connectivity and a Real Time Power Optimiser that adjusts power dynamically, depending
upon the application level processing requirement.

SoCs target next gen communications


Freescale has launched a multimode wireless
basestation processor family that scales from
femtocells to macrocells. Called Qonverge, the
devices blend StarCore dsp technology with Power
Architecture processors.
Scott Aylor, general manager of Freescales dsp
product line, said: There has been an explosion of
data, causing a change in the way things are done
on the network. Carriers are looking for increased
performance, along with energy efficiency and cost
reduction. This means there is a lot of opportunity
for innovation.
The first products in the Qonverge range are the
45nm PSC9130 and PSC9131, targeted at femtocells,

and the PSC9132, designed for use in picocells and


enterprise femtocells. Products targeting metro and
macrocell basestations will be announced later in
2011 and will be manufactured on a 28nm process.
The PSC9130 and 9131, which feature one e500
Power Architecture core and one SC3850 dsp core,
can support 8 or 16 users. The PSC9312 features dual
e500 and SC3850 cores and supports up to 64 users.
Pico and femtocell devices will enter volume
production in Q3 2011, while those designed for
larger applications will not appear until the first half
of 2012.
Meanwhile, Freescale has filed an IPO that is
designed to raise up to $1.15billion.

www.newelectronics.co.uk

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News Mobile Communications

www.newelectronics.co.uk

Basestations banished?

Smart satellites?

Alcatel-Lucent looks to distribute basestation


functionality. Graham Pitcher reports.

Researchers at the University of Southampton


have unveiled a control system that enables
engineers to program satellites and spacecraft
to think for themselves. The control system,
called Sysbrain, is said to open the door for
engineers to publish control instructions to
machines directly.
To test control systems, lead researcher
Professor Sandor Veres and a team of engineers
constructed a fleet of satellite models controlled
by the Sysbrain cognitive agent control system.
A glass covered precision level table was used to
mount overhead visual markers, observation
cameras and isolation curtains. Visual
navigation was performed using onboard
cameras, observing the overhead marker
system and replicating how spacecraft might
use points in the solar system to determine
their orientation. As with real satellites, the
models rotated around a pivot point.

Claiming a breakthrough in mobile and broadband infrastructure,


Alcatel-Lucent has unveiled lightRadio, an approach that is said to
streamline and simplify mobile networks. Pioneered by Bell Labs,
lightRadio is claimed to reduce technical complexity, while reducing
power consumption and other operating costs.
Ben Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, said: lightRadio is a
smart solution to a tough set of problems: high energy costs, the
explosion of video on mobile, and connecting the unconnected. The
approach sees the basestation broken into its components and then
distributed into the antenna and throughout a cloud like network.
Additionally, a range of antennas has been reduced into one
multifrequency, multistandard Wideband Active Array Antenna that can be mounted anywhere there is
power and a broadband connection.
According to Alcatel-Lucent, by reducing the site to the antenna and by anticipating advances in
microwave backhaul and compression techniques, lightRadio will enable the provision of broadband
coverage anywhere there is power.
Amongst the technical innovations are: the lightRadio cube, pictured, a palm sized device which
includes an innovative diplexer type, radio, amplifier and passive cooling; an SoC developed in association
with Freescale; compression algorithms that reduce IQ sample signals by a factor of three; and virtualised
processing platforms to enable a cloud like wireless architecture.

Edinburgh based Wolfson Microelectronics has


launched its first standalone dsp and is
targeting the device at smartphones and
tablets.
The WM0010, which ships with a suite of
sound enhancement software, is designed
around Tensilicas HiFi dsp core. According to
Andy Brannan, Wolfsons chief commercial
officer, the device is intended to offer the best
audio experience at the lowest power. It will
allow oems to create a brand signature sound;
for example, 3d immersive. The dsp can also be
used to offload tasks from the host cpu, such as
mp3 decode.
With a processing power of 200MIPs and
enough memory, the device can work in
tandem with an applications processor. The
applications processor can be put to sleep for
seven out of eight cycles, Brannan claimed.
Applications processors are good at doing HD
playback, for example, but they consume a lot of
power. By having the WM0010 as an adjunct,
designers can cut power consumption.
The part also offers 32dB of noise
cancellation; a feature proving attractive to
tablet pc developers. There has been a lot of
interest in beam forming, Brannan noted,
allowing tablet developers to create the best
possible video conferencing and Skype
environment by blocking ambient noise.

22 February 2011

Marcin Szczepanski, University of Michigan College of Engineering

Wolfson launches
first standalone
audio dsp

Phosphors for
better displays
Research at the University of Michigan could lead
to cheaper, more efficient and flexible displays.
A team led by associate professorJinsang Kim
has made metal free organic crystals that are
white in visible light, but which radiate blue, green,
yellow and orange when triggered by uv light.
Although the materials are still in the research
stage, Kim believes they will soon be available
commercially. The compounds are cheap, easy to
synthesise and easy to tune to achieve different
colours, he claimed.

Qualcomm unveils next generation microarchitecture


Qualcomms next processor microarchitecture,
called Krait, will run at up to 2.5GHz per core; more
than doubling the performance of existing devices.
and consuming 65% less power.
The 28nm devices will be available in single,
dual and quad core versions. A new Adreno gpu
series will also be introduced, with up to four 3d
cores and an integrated multimode LTE modem. All
chipsets will support WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and FM,
as well as near field communication.

The quad core APQ8064 will be the flagship


chipset, including the quad core Adreno 320 gpu.
This will support 20M pixel cameras, as well as 3d
video recording and external 3d video playback
Steve Mollenkopf, Qualcomms executive vp, said:
We believe we have an incredible lineup of chips and
software, representing a single platform that OEMs
can use to create new devices ranging from mass
market smartphones with integrated LTE ... to next
generation computing and entertainment devices.

www.newelectronics.co.uk

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*(1(6,6z/HWWKHUHEH&KLSV
IGBT Module from Vishay and EBV for Use in
Photovoltaic Systems in Private Homes
GENESIS, part of the EBVchips programme, is a power-stage module for residential
single-phase photovoltaic inverters. It provides standard boost bridge topology with
trench IGBTs and SiC diodes for higher efciency and lower EMI.
GENESIS comes in a well-proven Econo 2 RoHS-compliant package with copper base
plate and PCB solder terminals, and is a reliable solution designed and qualied for
the industrial sector. Like all EBVchips, it is a standard product that is available world
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For all information, design know-how and application support please contact your
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distribution, or check under ebv.com/genesis.

Distribution is today.
Tomorrow is EBV!
www.ebv.com

chips

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News Power

Green power focus unveiled


Distributor addresses growing need for power design
support. Graham Pitcher reports.
Avnet Abacus has announced a significant enhancement to its
power products strategy in a move designed to provide support for
green power design. The strategy is built on an expanded portfolio
of products and technologies.
Cor van Dam, pictured, the companys marketing director for
power, said: Customers are needing more and more help to
identify the kind of power components to deliver what they need.
We can now offer the customer the best fit solution for their design,
whether that is a power module, a discrete solution or a battery
pack. But theyre not looking for brand names; theyre looking for
solutions. Recent deals with Power Integrations and Varta
Microbattery have strengthened the offering.
As part of the move, Avnet Abacus has increased its team of
power application engineers. These engineers will use the Best Fit
approach, which looks at all aspects of the customers design,
including electrical specification, industry regulations, product
usage, shelf life, reliability requirements, cost, availability and potentially second sourcing before
recommending a solution.

Innovation centre to open


Science Oxford is creating a new innovation centre
to support entrepreneurs and start ups. Due to
open in March, the 25,000 sq ft innovation centre in
the heart of Oxford will provide offices and business
support for up to 30 companies.
Dr Ian Griffin, chief executive of Science Oxford,
said: Innovative, early stage companies are more
crucial than ever to our economy and at Oxford
Centre for Innovation, they will benefit from a
supportive environment with access to the funding
and advice they need to help them to grow.

NFC enabled concept car


NXP and automotive supplier Continental have
unveiled a concept car featuring near field
communication (NFC) technology.
The concept car makes use of an NFC enabled
mobile device that becomes part of an extended
dashboard, said NXP executive vp Ruediger Stroh.
Consumers will be able to open their vehicle in the
morning just by presenting their NFC enabled phone
to the door. Stroh said the device could also disarm
the immobiliser and allow the engine to start.

20A and 120W


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FPGA Development News

Looking for help

www.newelectronics.co.uk
Cognitive radio chip

Altera set to grow UK systems solution group.


Graham Pitcher reports.
Growth in the complexity of fpga based systems design is pushing Altera Europe to expand the systems
solution engineering group at its High Wycombe office.Mark Dickinson, director of the design centre, said
systems solution engineering was everything on top of the device. Its development tools and reference
designs, all the way to complete solutions. Were developing the technology to help system designers.
But Dickinson said: We are not a design services company. We will engage in system development
because we need to understand the constraints. Ultimately, our job is to drive silicon sales, but we will not
do complete systems designs free of charge.
The High Wycombe group was established in 1998 and has experienced mixed fortunes since then.
Growing to around 70 people on the back of the booming semiconductor industry in the early 2000s, the
group has since shrunk back to around 50 people. Now, Dickinson wants to add another 17 people. He said
there is nothing geographical about the work being done at High Wycombe. But it is easier to get, for
example, wireless expertise in Europe.
Customers face a number of challenges when implementing fpgas, he noted. Our powerful silicon
platform needs to be turned into a solution and the bigger the company, the less design they want to do.
Our emphasis is on making it easier for them to develop complete systems on fpgas.
While mainly focused on communications and image processing applications, the group is also
developing tools to help industrial designers. For motor control, Dickinson continued, designers would
traditionally use a dsp, but they need flexibility and that doesnt come from dsps.

Variant
RO-MIL-2212A
RO-MIL-2212B
Dimensions (wxdxh):
Weight:

Imec has introduced a digital front end


component for low cost and low power spectrum
sensing, a move it claims will pave the way for
power efficient cognitive radios and networks.
The spectrum sensing component is designed
as a versatile digital engine to meet a variety of
applications at low cost and low power overhead.
According to the research organisation, the chip
can perform both flexible synchronisation and
spectrum sensing for IEEE802.11a to n, mobile
standards, including 3GPP-LTE, and digital
broadcasting standards.
The unit connects
to imecs analogue
reconfigurable
radio chip
(SCALDIO) and
programmable
digital baseband
platform
(COBRA).

Input
Output
28V
12V 10A
28V
15V 8A
76.3 x 38.2 x 10.2mm
60g max

Variant
RO-MIL-2213A
RO-MIL-2213B
Dimensions (wxdxh):
Weight:

Input
Output
28V
3.3V 20A
28V
5V 20A
76.3 x 38.2 x 10.2mm
60g max

Independent British Founded 1956


Quite unique in this day and age

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News Analysis Plastic Electronics

Lighting up time?
Banknotes which light up and large area lighting products are just some of the
potential applications for plastic electronics. Graham Pitcher reports.

When the Plastic Electronics strategy was launched


at the end of 2009, one goal was to develop a vibrant
community, with a mix of SMEs, larger indigenous
companies and global systems businesses. And, of
course, universities and other interested parties.
But has that happened? That was one of the topics
on the table at a recent seminar organised by
Intellect. Entitled Plastic Electronics Conference 2011
overcoming market and financial barriers, the
event brought together users, suppliers, developers
and researchers.
Setting the scene was Dr Peter Batchelor, head of
electronics and photonics at the Department for
Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). He asked the
obvious question: what is plastic electronics?. Its
not about replacing silicon. Rather, its about
complementing it. He sees a range of opportunities
for plastic electronics. OLED lighting, organic
photovoltaics and integrated smart systems, he said.
Currently, the Government is investing 68million
a year into plastic electronics research in universities.
This comes on top of investments in PETEC, the
Printable Electronics Technology Centre in Sedgefield,
and in Plastic Electronics Centres of Excellence. BIS
has invested 33m in PETEC in two phases, Dr

12

22 February 2011

Batchelor noted. Phase two was completed two


months early and the facility is being equipped to
produce large area lighting products.
Providing the perspective of potential users were
representatives from De La Rue and Toppan.
Dr Philip Cooper, head of ideas development with
De La Rue, the worlds largest commercial security
printer, said: I dont care what the technology is; I just
need to know whether it works.
What does he think the technology brings? It
offers new features that make it harder for people to
copy things, he said.
While companies like De La Rue have focused on
print quality, paper, holograms and the like, Dr Cooper
noted the first line of defence is the user. On that
basis, we are putting more effort into overt security.
Although plastic electronics offers the opportunity
to engage more closely with users, he said: The
challenge is to make it cost effective, because
material cost will be a high element.
One of his current research areas is how to blend
power and paper. We could use a printable battery,
but that has a limited life, he continued. We could
use photovoltaics, but that has area implications. We
need a system with a power source, some logic and

PETEC, the Printable Electronics Technology


Centre, is looking to bring new products and
processes to market quickly.

some kind of output. The solution? Some form of


induction. We are investigating using rf emissions
from mobile phones, but the trick will be to harvest
this energy in an efficient way; for example, it wont be
easy to develop a printable 2GHz rectifier.
In aconcept demonstrated by Dr Cooper, rf energy
is used to illuminate leds embedded in a banknote.
Neil Shepherd, European research manager for
Japanese printing technology specialist Toppan, said
the company was looking to grow its business
outside of Japan and hinted the UKs plastic
electronics community could help. Japan has never
looked at the UK as a manufacturing base before, he
commented.
But he believes that, while the Knowledge Transfer
Networks have been good at flagging progress with
plastic electronics, the focus needs to change.Plastic
electronics is a set of materials and processes; its a
tool, not a product, he said. We need prototypes.
Executives in a Japanese company have to be able to
see and touch something in order to generate
excitement; its the most important investment area.

www.newelectronics.co.uk

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Page 13

Program Faster
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22 February 2011 13

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cover story noise

Whats all
this noise
about?
Far from being a problem, electrical noise
could just be the way forward for
semiconductor design. By David Boothroyd.
lectrical noise is usually extremely bad news for the semiconductor
industry; it can cause the 0s and 1s of digital data to flip, destroying
information. For a long time, the worry has been that it will be
impossible to produce really low power chips because noise will drown the
information they are designed to process.
But noise may not be the culprit it was thought to be. Researchers are
making good progress in not just avoiding noise, but also exploiting it. The
future may well see nanoscale devices that use noise in circuits to store, carry
and process information. Ironically, noise may be the phenomenon that makes
possible extremely low power electronic devices.
The whole idea of exploiting noise has slowly emerged over the last 30
years, based on a deeper and wider understanding of what noise is, says Luca
Gammaitoni, a professor at the University of Perugia, who leads the universitys
Noise in Physical Systems (NiPS) laboratory. Initially, noise was seen as a
disturbance to be eliminated, or limited whenever possible. Eventually, people
started to realise that noise has its roots in the fundamental physical
properties of matter and, instead of merely being a limiting disturbance, is a
manifestation of the way things work at the microscopic level.
Based on this understanding, scientists began to study noise in various
microscopic phenomena, often in biological systems (see below). But it has
also been of benefit in other areas, as Prof Gammaitoni says.
The idea that noise could play an important role has contributed to the
discovery of a number of new phenomena in dynamical systems, where the
combination of noise and nonlinearities can be beneficial to the dynamics of
the system itself. The most popular of these phenomena is undoubtedly
stochastic resonance.

14

22 February 2011

Stochastic resonance, or SR, shows how the addition of noise to a


periodically driven, bistable or switch like system can improve its performance.
If the noise level is just below the threshold required to switch the state of the
system, even a tiny input voltage is enough to change the state in effect, the
SR effect of the noise is to increase the sensitivity of the switch. Prof
Gammaitonis laboratory recently developed a device that exploits this a
resonant tunnelling diode. This exploits quantum effects to enable electrons to
tunnel through some resonant states at certain energy levels.
SR has become very popular among scientists and has helped to spread
the idea that noise could be beneficial and thus exploited, Prof Gammaitoni
says. Nowadays, there are a number of patents on the exploitation of SR like
phenomena that embrace applications like signal detection, and magnetic and
optical sensor functioning.
Like many others, Prof Gammaitoni is convinced that noise has the
potential to have a major impact on information and communication
technology (ICT). A logic gate is based on the functioning of threshold devices
and sometimes, due to the presence of noise, the switching of such devices
fails. This induces errors in computation and slows the operation of the entire
computer. In order to limit such errors, it is customary to operate with safely
large voltages and limited clock frequencies. If, instead of avoiding switching
errors, we could find a way to operate the logic gates as fault tolerant devices
that is in the presence of a significant amount of noise we could almost
certainly gain in speed and, more importantly, we could reduce energy
consumption, solve the problem of critical heating and limit CO2 emissions.
Keeping power levels down is one potential benefit of noise, but another
relates to extracting power from noise known as vibration energy harvesting
which could have benefits for a range of applications, such as wireless
sensor networks used for things like environmental monitoring, biomedical
sensing and detecting harmful chemical agents.
These all need distributed powering systems, Prof Gammaitoni points out,
and traditional batteries are not a viable solution, mainly because they have to
be replaced once exhausted. Alternative solutions based on micro fuel cells
and micro turbine generators are also not suitable; both involve the use of
chemical energy and require refuelling when their supplies are exhausted.
Distributed power already operates devices like rf identity tags, smart cards
and other passive electronic devices, which are powered by an external
supply. But the operating distance for rf powering is short and the pickup coils
can be bulky.
Kish: This
could provide
performance
comparable to
quantum
parallelism
and beyond.

Gammaitoni:
The whole idea
of exploiting
noise has slowly
emerged over
the last 30
years.

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On the other hand, the power requirement of portable electronics has been
decreasing constantly over the last 20 years, Prof Gammaitoni says. Current
cmos based devices operate at minimum power levels, ranging from 1 to 10 W
at around 100kHz. Radio transmitters usually need 1mW, but by using burst
transmission with a low duty cycle, the average power level can be reduced
substantially.
This has opened a window of opportunities for the introduction of a new
class of powering devices microgenerators that can generate electric power
by transforming the energy present in the environment. A typical example of
an energy harvesting based microgenerator would be a device that transforms
the vibrations of solid bodies mechanical noise into electricity.
Prof Gammaitonis NiPS Laboratory is coordinating Nanopower
(www.nanopwr.eu), an EC project exploring this idea and which has just held its
first meeting. NiPS has also created a spin off company named Wisepower.

www.newelectronics.co.uk

Another EC project that aims to exploit noise and SR is SUBTLE (SUB kT Low
Energy transistors and sensors). Here, nanoelectronic devices are being
developed in which quantum confined electron channels are so closely spaced
to each other that tailored feedback action occurs.
The approach of SUBTLE is based on the application of two effects in
miniaturised electronics back action of the channel on the gate and noise
induced switching which one usually tries to avoid in device design, says
project coordinator Professor Lukas Worschech of the University of Wurzburg.
The aim is to exploit tailored feedback to enhance the signal. A channel gate
is used to route a signal and back action is like feedback in an audio system.
The subsequent noise can be used to switch the circuit from one channel to
another.
By using nonlinear transport in nanosystems, the SUBTLE project has the
potential to open a new window for electronic applications covering SR

22 February 2011 15

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Page 18

cover story noise

Fig 2: Stealth communications using noise

Fig 1: Noise based logic

Sender
u1(t)
C1

R1

1
Signal 1

Threshold
To channel
2
C2

(T)

u2(t)

Crosstalk
plus noise

Ground
Receiver
From
channel

Noise
analyser

Output

Signal 2
Ground
Fig 1: In this scheme, electronic noise is used as the carrier of a logic value. The figure shows noise based logic base vectors, which are orthogonal to each other and to the background
noise. Fig 2: This zero signal power communication scheme uses the thermal noise (or Johnson noise) of resistors to data exchange in stealth mode. Information is transmitted using
the statistical properties of the modulated noise.

phenomena, sub thermal switching and on chip noise control applications,


Prof Worschech says.
One area of SUBTLEs work has resulted in submicron arrays of resonant
tunnelling diodes that can act as artificial brain cells, or neurons. The hope is
that such devices could mimic neuronal behaviour and serve as sensors for
signals hidden under noise.
Another potential benefit is retention of the input. Conventional computers
discard an input once it has been acted on, but the quantum transistors
developed by SUBTLE can effectively reverse, allowing inputs to be retained.
This could be a reversible computer, where you could return to the inputs
from the output. It will probably be essential for quantum computing because
there will be instances where you need the input, explains Prof Worschech.
Perhaps one of the most ambitious attempts to use noise is being
pioneered by Professor Laszlo Kish, Texas A&M Universitys department of
electrical and computer engineering, who is working on using noise as the
information carrier in three different areas: fluctuation enhanced sensing
(FES); secure communication; and noise based logic (NBL).
Prof Kish says the first two represent major advances and are near
commercialisation. In FES, the small stochastic noise component of chemical
sensors is separated, amplified and analysed. It carries rich information
about the chemical agents and, by using it, sensitivity of sensing is increased
by 100 times or more and a single sensor can act as a complex multisensor
electronic nose, he says.
In his secure communication system, based on a technique called the Kish
cypher, noise is the information carrier. Prof Kish claims the concept provides a
higher level of data security than even quantum encryption, as well as being
far cheaper it would be possible to use power lines as communication cables.
The aim of NBL is to use the presence or absence of noise to represent the
0s and 1s of binary data, as opposed to voltage levels as in ordinary
computers. It exploits the fact that noise has a pattern characteristic of its
source, which means you can differentiate noise signals and therefore

16

22 February 2011

compute with them. Any background noise will be different from the noise
signals, making it possible to subtract its effect.
To represent one bit of data needs two sources of noise: one for 0, the other
for 1. A string of n bits requires 2n sources and this is easy to achieve with
conventional chips, since transistors can be a good source of noise when
operated at low voltage and chips already contain billions of them. Using a
conventional cmos chip, the NBL architecture would be inherently about three
times more complex than classical logic, Prof Kish says.
But in the nanometre range, where it would be used, classical logic would
(in practice) have to be 100 to 1000 times larger in terms of hardware
complexity, due to error correction requirements. So NBL would actually be
much simpler. It would have much lower energy dissipation and be extremely
robust against dynamical errors.
It has another intriguing potential feature the ability to support a form of
superposition of logic states, as quantum computers can do. Last year, Prof
Kish and collaborators claimed noise signals could be superimposed and sent
through a single wire without losing their identity. This means a series of
calculations can be done simultaneously, as with quantum computing.
For example, five 5 noise bits and their superposition represents about one
billion logic values in a single wire, Prof Kish says. This could provide
performance comparable to quantum parallelism and beyond.
It is already known that stochastic resonance is used in biology to enhance
sensitivity in neurons performance and the feeling among biologists is that it
may be a widely used mechanism, at least in mammals. But could nature have
gone further and exploited noise to do computing?
Prof Kish and a partner in biology, Sergey Bezrukov of the US National
Institutes of Health, believe that is the case. They claim NBL could explain
some features of neural activity, such as delays that occur in certain neural
signals. They have also outlined how the brain could achieve its own version of
noise based superposition.
It could turn out that we have a lot to thank noise for.

www.newelectronics.co.uk

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Scratching out a career?

Make your own luck


www.jobs.newelectronics.co.uk

New Electronic Jobs


Part of the totally engineering network
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Keeping control
Lithium ion batteries for automotive applications need
sophisticated monitoring schemes. By Graham Pitcher.
ith the increasing price of oil and
the growing pressure on
countries to reduce their carbon
emissions, the electric vehicle or a
hybrid such as the Toyota Prius is
becoming more attractive by the day.
Seemingly a simple solution, the
battery powered electric vehicle presents
a range of challenges to vehicle designers
and to the electronics engineer.
Erik Soule, vice president of Linear
Technologys signal conditioning products
business, said: There is a lot of power
involved in an electric vehicle and bad
things can happen if you dont manage it
properly.
Linear has addressed the issues with
the LTC6802, launched a couple of years
ago. But the electronics have proved to be
tougher than people thought for a number
of reasons, he noted. For instance, there
are high voltages and the process needs
extreme precision, as well as noise
immunity. Its a problem when inverters
switch at 20kHz because they radiate emi
with a large number of harmonics, so you
also have to filter all that out. Other
requirements include reliability, fault
tolerance and diagnostics. All of this is
being driven by the ISO26262 automotive
safety standard, he continued.
Lithium ion is now the preferred
battery technology for electric and hybrid
vehicles. It offers, amongst other things,
the ability to support more charge cycles,
higher energy density, a better self
discharge rate and a higher cell voltage.
But lithium ion comes with a health
warning. Lithium ion batteries must be
treated with respect. Fires have occurred
in notebook computers because
overvoltage peaks were not monitored

18

22 February 2011

correctly, said Steve Sockolov, director of


Analog Devices precision signal
processing group. Although the quality of
battery fabrication has improved, guarding
against higher temperature conditions in
any energy, industrial or automotive
application is critical.
There are a number of issues relating

Top: Intersils battery


management device
features a 14bit
temperature
compensated data
converter that scans 12
channels in less than
250s.
Left: Hybrids, such as
the Toyota Prius, are
becoming more
common.
Below: The Prius power
pack and drive train.

to the batteries in an electric car, Soule


reflected. When the battery is charged, for
example, you want to know as a driver
how much energy is left. But from the
system point of view, you want to know
whether all the cells are balanced. Were
looking at 1mV precision over a range of
temperatures.
Linear product marketing engineer
Greg Zimmer explained in more detail.
Li ion battery performance depends on
battery temperature and age, battery
charge and discharge rates and the state
of charge (SOC). These factors are not
independent. For example, Li-ion batteries
generate heat when discharged, which can
increase discharge current. This has the
potential to create thermal runaway and
catastrophic failure. Meanwhile, charging a
Li ion battery to 100% or discharging to 0%
will degrade its capacity, so it needs a
restricted SOC range, such as 20% to 80%.
This means the usable capacity is only
60% of the specified capacity. Because a
1% change in SOC may only be indicated
by a few mV, the battery system must
monitor this cell voltage accurately.
Accuracy, in Soules opinion, starts with
a voltage reference. Less obvious, but
equally important, factors include thermal
hysteresis and long term drift. Remember,
the electronics in an electric vehicle may
be on 24/7 for 15 years.
The LTC6802, which can monitor and

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Sector Focus Automotive Electronics

control 12 lithium ion cells, is more like an


analogue front end, said Soule. Were
looking at dealing with 100V in the
analogue domain, while using fine cmos
technologies for the digital side.
Analogs offering is the AD8280, a
hardware only safety monitor for lithium
ion battery stacks. While the part has
inputs to monitor six battery cells and two
temperature sensors, it can be
daisychained with other AD8280 devices
to monitor hundreds of cells. Information
about the status of the alarms on the
entire daisychain, as well as input signals
that enable the part and initiate self test,
are communicated via a master device.
Intersil is also interested in this area,
recently launching the ISL78600 battery
management system. Each ISL78600
features a 14bit temperature
compensated data converter that scans
12 channels in less than 250s,
measuring cell voltage to within 2mV. A
high noise immunity and transient
tolerant communication scheme is used
to link devices. This fully differential
daisychain architecture allows the use of
low cost twisted pair wiring for multiple
battery packs. The part can link with a
microcontroller using spi or i2c interfaces.

www.newelectronics.co.uk

Custom system for electric vehicles


Nuvation Engineering, a US based provider of electronic design services, has developed a custom
battery management system, fuel gauge and driver interface specifically for electric vehicles. The
system is currently featured on the OptaMotive E Rex the electric equivalent of OptaMotives T Rex.
E Rex is a three wheeled electric car with six times the efficiency of a Prius, yet more torque per
pound than a Porsche 911 Turbo, claimed Nuvations ceo Michael Worry. The E. Rex is capable of 0 to
60mph in 5s and has a top speed in excess of 100mph. The E. Rex proves going green can be fun and
efficient.
E Rex is powered by a battery pack featuring 106 lithium iron phosphate cells. This 35kWhr pack is
said to have a driving range of 200 miles and can be recharged in four hours from a 220V/40A supply.
Power is supplied to the wheels using brushless dc motors.
Working with Maxim, Nuvation engineers have designed the battery management system around the
MAX11068 to provide voltage monitoring, temperature monitoring and balancing. Fuel gauging has been
implemented using Maxims ModelGauge, which combines voltage measurement with coulomb counting
to support continuous automatic calibration.
The advanced battery management system monitors each cells voltage and temperature to ensure
safety, balanced cells for long range and long battery life and to optimise vehicle performance, said
Worry.
According to OptaMotive, the E Rex will have a range in excess of 100 miles and will return a fuel
economy equivalent to 100mpg.
The MAX11068 is a programmable 12 channel battery monitoring data acquisition interface
optimised for use with batteries used in a range of applications, including automotive systems. It
integrates a simple state machine and a high speed i2c bus for laddered serial communication.
The analogue front end combines a 12 channel voltage measurement and data acquisition system with
a high voltage switch bank input. All measurements are performed differentially across each cell. A high
speed 12bit SAR a/d converter is used to digitise the cell voltages and all 12 cells can be measured in
less than 107s.
A two scan approach is used to collect cell measurements and correct them for errors. Firstly, the
voltages of all 12 cells are acquired, after which the a/d converter input is chopped to remove errors.
Information is supplied to the driver of E Rex via a touchscreen panel, providing a high level view of
what the car is doing, including how much charge is left in the battery. The system controller is a single
board computer running Linux.

22 February 2011 19

P020_NELE_FEB22

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09:52

Page 1

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www.micrel.com

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Technology Watch Introduction

The power for change


elieve it or not, the world currently has an electric power
generation capacity of around 10trillion kWhr from all
sources and a lot of this is consumed by electric motors of all
kinds. No surprise, because industry and domestic appliances rely
on the electric motor to run fans, compressors and pieces of
machinery of all sizes.
But electric motors are generally inefficient and that goes against
the grain nowadays, when the focus is squarely on the most
efficient use of power and the reduction of carbon emissions.
The solution, of course, is to turn to electronics technology to
improve this state of affairs. Its one of those topics where you can
delve ever deeper, with the mathematics getting harder as you go
sometimes hard enough to make your eyes water.
Using semiconductors to control electric motors isnt new; this
market was one of the prime targets for digital signal processors in
the 1990s. But as manufacturing technology moves on, more
powerful, more cost effective dsps are available, in turn allowing
more exotic control algorithms to be implemented, with greater
potential savings. Microcontrollers are set to play an equally
important role as well.
Much of the attention has been on industrial motor control; the
more powerful motors in those applications allow proportionally
more power to be saved. But most motors are rated at less than
1hp, or 745W and many of these are ac motors the worst kind
when it comes to efficiency. So work remains to be done; enough so
that the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy believes
that control of motors is the frontier of energy saving possibilities
for semiconductors.
Things have certainly come on since Fleming invented his left
hand rule.

Its an amazing fact; more


than half of the electricity
generated in the US is
consumed by electric motors.
Many of these are power
hungry and inefficient AC
motors. Yet, with the use of
the right control techniques,
these motors could become
more efficient than their dc
counterparts.
Digi-Key is pleased to
partner with New Electronics
to help UK engineers to save
power.

Graham Pitcher,
Editor, New Electronics

Mark Larson,
President, Digi-Key

As an extension of its commitment to providing top quality product, Digi-Key is pleased to partner
with New Electronics to provide relevant, useful information to UK engineers.

www.newelectronics.co.uk

22 February 2011 21

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Timing is everything
eal time scheduling is one of the
trickiest areas for any embedded
designer to tackle. Superficially, it
is simple: make sure every task with a
deadline hits that deadline. But there are
plenty of factors that can affect whether
this happens reliably or just when things
are going well.
For many small applications, the
simplest of all real time processing
architectures is the most obvious choice.
This is the superloop, familiar to many
microcontroller users. If written in C, this
corresponds to a main() loop that cycles
through a series of statements and
function calls, collecting data from inputs
and setting outputs before returning to
the beginning ready to start again. This
may not sound like a real time system
but, as long as the performance of the
code is predictable and everything gets
done within the time needed to maintain
control, it is real time enough.
Eventually, the superloop model
breaks down so many features need to
be added that timing is no longer
predictable and even simple changes to
code can cause important functions to
miss deadlines. Its about this time that
most people find they are ready to shift to
a real time operating system (RTOS),
whether they pull one off the shelf or
decide to implement it themselves.

An rtos isnt inherently real time


There is nothing inherently real time
about an RTOS. The distinction between
an RTOS and an operating system that
does not have its features lies simply in
the choice of scheduling modes, although
there are subtleties that make some
better at delivering determinism than
others. An RTOS supports tasks with
different priorities. Other types are mainly

22

22 February 2011

Fig 1: ARINC guarantees a time slice to each partition


Partition
idle

Major time frame


Activation 2
Activation 1
Partition
1
t0

Partition
2
t1

Partition
3
t2

Partition
1
t3

Partition
2
t4

Duration 1

aimed at timesharing, where the tasks


each get a turn to run on a round robin
basis. Although these operating systems
have a concept of priority, this tends to
mean they get a longer time slot or are
returned to the ready queue with greater
frequency than those considered low
priority.
In an RTOS, a higher priority task that is
considered ready to run by the scheduler
will always be picked ahead of one with a
lower priority; a round robin scheduler can
choose to suspend a task once it has run
out of time. Desktop operating systems
rarely implement pure priority based
scheduling because of the potential for
deadlock: a runaway thread or process
may never yield the processor and block
all others. Anyone implementing a system
using an RTOS takes that risk in exchange
for the assurance that an important task
will never be blocked from running if it has
not finished its work. If everything is
working correctly, it will meet its
deadlines, providing the real time
behaviour that system designers expect.
In practice, there are many subtleties
to the design of an RTOS that can prevent
a system from meeting its deadlines,
even when priorities are all set correctly,

t5

Partition
1
t6

Partition
2
Time

Duration 2

and which make analysis of the timing


behaviour of the system difficult to
achieve, except through extensive
testing. Interactions between tasks and
hardware resources and between
interrupts and the RTOS have been known
to cause intriguing problems.
The bug in the Mars Pathfinder is an old
example, but illustrates some of the
subtleties involved. A few days after it
bounced onto the surface of Mars, the
craft started to reset itself periodically and
unexpectedly. A watchdog timer would run
out, indicating the system had locked up,
and triggered a reset each time.
Engineers at NASAs Jet Propulsion
Laboratory realised the source of the lock
up was the landers information bus a
central memory block used by the
landers different components to pass
data to each other. Access to this bus was
protected using mutual exclusion
semaphores (mutexes) a task could
only enter the block of code that could
read or write the shared memory if it first
acquired ownership of the semaphore
(NE, 8 February 2011).
Tasks with a variety of priority levels
could access the information bus and it
was this interaction that led to the resets.

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Technology Watch scheduling

When youre writing embedded software, its important for things to happen
when you want them to. Chris Edwards outlines some of the approaches.

A few days after


Pathfinder landed on
Mars, the craft started
to reset itself
periodically and
unexpectedly. The
source of the lock up
was the landers
information bus.

In a system without interrupts, each task


could acquire, read and write and then
release the mutex in one contiguous
sequence of events until it relinquished
the processor and went back to sleep. In
effect, this is not very different from a
superloop program. However, in a pre
emptive RTOS, interrupts can stop a task
from executing. Not only that, the interrupt
may make a higher priority ready to run.
Usually, the scheduler in the RTOS will
reevaluate which tasks should run next
when the interrupt handler has finished
running the handler may well have
provided the input that a high priority task
needs to continue its work so it makes
sense to schedule it immediately.
On Pathfinder, it was possible for a low

www.newelectronics.co.uk

priority task that collected meteorological


data to acquire the mutex to write to the
bus but, before it could release the
semaphore, be interrupted by the high
priority task information-bus manager
thread, which would then block on the
mutex held by the meteorological-data
thread. This would not matter ordinarily, as
the low priority task could finish its work.
However, a second interrupt might cause
another task with higher priority to be
scheduled. In the case of Pathfinder, this
was a medium priority task that, by
preventing the meteorological data thread
from running, would effectively block a
task with higher priority. The result is
priority inversion: a high priority task is
blocked by one with a lower priority.

The watchdog timer monitored the


information bus and, if the bus manager
did not run within a certain period of
time, would force a reset on the
assumption that something had gone
wrong. The cure was to activate a priority
inheritance mode for the mutex. This
mode provides any thread that owns a
mutex with the same priority as a more
important task that is blocked on it until
the semaphore is released. Fortunately,
it was NASA policy to leave a debugger
mode in any spacecraft to allow on the
fly changes to be made: even to a
system that is millions of miles away.
Priority inheritance
Many RTOS implementations support
priority inheritance (see fig 2) or a close
relative, the priority ceiling protocol.
However, it is not a cure all and study has
shown it can, in itself, cause problems if
used indiscriminately. You are, in effect,
designing in a certain amount of priority
inversion (see fig 3) deliberately and so
need to be sure that a normally low
priority task will not simply hog a
resource and keep running indefinitely in
a state where it cannot easily be pre
empted. There also also subtleties in
implementation. If an application is
migrated from a single core to a dual core
processor that uses the priority ceiling
protocol, it cannot guarantee mutual
exclusion. So a distributed priority ceiling
protocol has to be used instead.
A way around the priority inversion
problem is to force all accesses to a
shared resource through a dedicated
task which arbitrates between the
different requests. This task needs to run
at a priority level higher than the most
important thread that will request its
services to ensure that it can complete

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In practice, there are many subtleties to the


design of an RTOS that can prevent a system
from meeting its deadlines

Fig 2: Priority inheritance


A

Task 3
(hoisted)
Req A

Task 1
A

Priority

Task 3
(hoisted)

Req A

Task 2
Req A

Task 3
1

Normal execution

its work. As a result, a form of priority


inversion can still take place as the
resource manager may pre empt a high
priority task when it takes on work on
behalf of a low priority thread. However,
the delay it incurs should be more
predictable as all requests go through the
same code.
A shift to an interrupt driven
asynchronous RTOS can reveal hidden
dependencies on timing. In the mid
1990s, the flight software for a fighter
aircraft was migrated from a cyclic
executive with known timing to an
interrupt driven system. After the port,
the display showing tracked objects
blurred randomly. The transfer of target
data from the sensor to the display used
to take four frames. Under pre emption, it
could take between four and eight
frames, so the target appeared to
oscillate when this period stretched out. If
the incoming samples are not time
stamped, the time jitter of data used in a
control loop can cause instabilities or
excess noise.
Techniques have appeared that

24

22 February 2011

Time
6

10 11 12

Critical region

attempt to help engineers work out


whether their proposed design has
scheduling problems. The most famous is
rate monotonic analysis, first proposed
by Liu and Layland in 1973. Under this
system, a tasks priority depends on how
often it has to run. The task with the
shortest period has highest priority and
the sequences runs down monotonically
to the task with the longest period, giving
the approach the name rate monotonic.
The approach has merit, but suffers
from some serious limitations. A key
shortcoming is that it assumes tasks do
not interact; it is often interactions
between tasks that cause the problems in
scheduling in the first place. And the
tasks have to be periodic, which may
not be possible to achieve without
forcing tasks to be scheduled,
even when they have nothing to do.
To guarantee that all tasks can run, the
algorithm is quite conservative: the
processor cannot be more than 70%
loaded for a system shared by more than
a few tasks.
Given the problems of analysing

schedulability in asynchronous, interrupt


driven real time systems, it should come
as little surprise that many systems that
have to guarantee dependable behaviour
resort to some form of strict time sharing.
In this scenario, important tasks may
have nothing to do, but they are
guaranteed a number of cycles within a
period of time to run, just in case they do
need to respond to a problem. ARINC 653
avionics systems have used this
approach for years and automotive
systems are adopting the Flexray
architecture, which is based on time
triggered operating systems.
ARINC 653 uses an application
executive (APEX) that partitions a system
in both space and time, isolating software
components from each other so they
cannot bring down one another in the
event of application failure.
Each partition in an ARINC 653 system
has its own dedicated, protected memory
space and the APEX provides a

guaranteed time
slice to each partition
(see fig 1). Each ARINC 653
partition can run a multitasking system,
but vital functions will generally have
their own dedicated partitions.
Multicore and multiprocessor systems

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Technology Watch scheduling

... until those tools appear, engineers will have


to be attuned to all the subtle things that can
go wrong, go wrong, go wrong ...

provide a further degree of freedom. If


you have processing capacity to spare,
why not dedicate processors to important
tasks to ensure they can always be
scheduled to run when needed?
Even with such rigidly enforced
partitions, timing problems can still arise
courtesy of interactions with the
hardware. One problem identified by GE
Aviation and Wind River Systems lay in the
use of direct memory access (DMA). If a
partition towards the end of its time slice
decided to initiate a long DMA transfer, the
partition that runs immediately
afterwards will stall because the DMA
hardware has exclusive access to the
memory bus effectively shortening the
new partitions time slice enough to cause
it to miss its own deadline.
The recommendation in this case was
to transfer the responsibility for setting
up DMA transfers to a system level task,
which would take into account the
amount of time a partition had remaining
before it would be forced to relinquish the
processor.
Similarly, interrupt handling can upset
the operation of an otherwise strictly time
sliced system. A number of systems
prevent all but the system timer, which is
used to help manage scheduling, from
being able to assert an interrupt. Others
may record the interrupt and then allow
the affected system to then poll for the
associated data when it next runs.
Although ARINC 653 and Flexray
systems are intended for specialised
applications and will not be encountered
by many engineers, the rise of
virtualisation will make these side effects
apparent to a wider range of system
designers. Whether the hypervisor time
slices virtual machines, runs them with
strict priority policies or a mixture of both,

www.newelectronics.co.uk

Fig 3: An unbounded priority inversion

Normal execution

Critical section execution

Unbounded priority
inversion

Req A

Task H

Task M
A

Task L

there is clear potential for data transfers


and interrupts associated with low priority
subsystems to interfere with the timing of
critical applications. Again, multicore
architectures can provide a way out of the
dilemma, so long as shared subsystems
are managed carefully a vital task
running alone on a processor core can
still be blocked by long I/O transfers made
by a less important task if they have to
share the same I/O bus or port or make
accesses to the same system
management registers.
One option for the real time systems
designer is to have a system that is more
explicit about what is required. Priority is
only a proxy for what is actually required:
the ability to meet a hard deadline. This is
where techniques such as deadline
monotonic analysis come in. It is not
implemented widely and still has some
shortcomings in that it cannot deal
directly with resource conflicts that trip
up other systems. But the system has the
advantage of allowing the designer to set
deadlines explicitly and then allowing the
RTOS to set priorities that enable each
task to meet its deadline using an
algorithm similar to that used by rate
monotonic analysis.
Variations on deadline monotonic
analysis have appeared that attempt to

Opposite: When the


flight software for a
fighter aircraft was
migrated to an interrupt
driven system, the
transfer of target data
from sensor to display
could take between
four and eight frames,
making the target
appear to oscillate.

take account of changes in behaviour


caused by resource sharing. In this
approach, a kernel tracks the amount of
time under which tasks run under priority
inheritance conditions. This is compared
with a maximum blocking time and, if it is
exceeded, the RTOS sends a message to
the task through the reservation API to
make it easier to diagnose problems.
Other techniques concentrate on a
mixture of static analysis and
instrumented tests to try to identify worst
case behaviour and provide probabilities
on whether the system can meet its
deadlines under different conditions. The
instrumented tests in the target system
are needed because of the interactions
between tasks. A task that runs slower,
possibly because of thrashing in cache
memory, will often have a knock on effect
on another task possibly because they
may contend over the same cache lines in
worst case conditions. These interactions
are tough to pick up with a static analysis
or unit test.
Research continues into
schedulability analysis and ways to
determine how well an arbitrary system
design will hit its deadlines. But until
those tools appear, engineers will have to
be attuned to all the subtle things that
can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong ...

22 February 2011 25

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State of flux
lectric motors in the developed
world are consuming an enormous
amount of energy. According to a
report prepared in 2002 by Steven Nadel
and colleagues at the American Council
for an Energy Efficient Economy
(ACEEE), more than half of the electricity
produced in the US flows through motors.
More than 95% of these motors were
rated at less than 1hp (745W) and a very
large proportion of them are AC motors
renowned for being power hungry and
inefficient.
Better control techniques, however,
can improve the efficiency of AC motors
to the degree that, with the right dsp
algorithms, they become cheaper to run
than more complex and expensive dc
motors.
A later ACEEE report estimated some
20% of motors in use in 2006 used
electronic control, providing an energy
saving relative to 1976 of around 40TWh.
That equated to roughly 2% of the
electricity consumed by motors. By
2030, the ACEEE report estimates the
savings will exceed 100TWh. By then,
electric vehicles will have become more
prevalent, providing another load on the
electricity supply.
Some motors stand to make greater
gains than others: in a number of
markets, the conversion to more
efficient control has already begun.
Motors in large household goods once
used wire brushes to maintain constant
power contact with the motors stator,
incurring relatively large power losses
from friction and resistance. These are
gradually switching to permanent
magnet motors that use solid state
power and feedback devices to replace
the brushes, with better pulsewidth
modulated voltage control.

26

22 February 2011

Above: Recharging the


batteries in electric
vehicles, such as the
OptaMotive E Rex, will
place a greater burden
on the electricity supply
and require more
efficient use of power
Centre: AC motors are
generally power hungry
and inefficient

Industrial motors have tended to fare


better in terms of overall efficiency,
largely because the payback in reduced
energy can be quick so polyphase
induction motors rated at more than
100hp are now common.
The ACEEE regards drive systems as
being the frontier of energy saving
possibilities for semiconductors mostly
to reduce the variability in supply voltage
that can lead not just to lower efficiency,
but also lifespan.
A number of types of drive control are
in action today. The most basic is the volts
per hertz technique, generally used on
fans and pumps. It is cheap to implement
on a basic 8bit microcontroller and avoids
one of the biggest problems of using the
simplest control technique for an AC
motor of just controlling motor speed by
changing the applied frequency.
The flux, magnetising current and

torque all depend on a built in ratio of a


motors design, expressed in V/Hz.
Increasing frequency without a
corresponding increase in voltage will
boost speed, but reduce the torque. The
way around that is to alter the applied
voltage in line with frequency so that
torque can be maintained with every
change in speed.
The relationship between voltage and
frequency tends to break down at low
speeds. To provide sufficient torque at
low speeds, a voltage boost is often
needed from the motor drive. But, if the
load is also low, then the motor can
saturate and potentially overheat. This is
where the more advanced vector control
techniques can make their mark.
With flux vector control, the speed and
torque relationship can be separated, with
each governed by a different control loop
based on a model of the motors operation.

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Technology Watch Motor Control

Chris Edwards explores how more accurate control


of ac motors can save significant amounts of power.

Fig 1: Field oriented control

AC power supply
udc
Inverse Park
transform

PI
id*

ud*

d, q

u*

ua*

ub*

iq*

uq*

u*

d, q

uc*

Park
transform

will be and the more efficient you can


make the motor.
Field oriented control (see fig 1) is the
most maths intensive technique used
today but provides the best speed and
torque control available for ac motors. It
provides dc performance for ac induction
motors, so lets designers replace dc
motors with often cheaper ac alternatives.
The stator in an ac induction motor has
three windings that can be controlled
independently stators with single phase
windings cannot be controlled as
accurately. The stator moves the rotor as
the result of the sum of the force from the
three phases. The coils can be driven to
produce torque or apply force along the
axis of the stator that does not affect
rotation. These are, in motor control
theory, the quadrature and direct axes,
respectively. If you want to generate
rotation, you need to maximise

ia

iq

www.newelectronics.co.uk

pwm
generation

PI

id

However, a big problem with ac induction


motors is that the speed of the rotor does
not match the speed at which the
magnetic flux driving it rotates. Instead,
the mechanical speed tends to lag the
difference is known as the slip speed.
Early vector control techniques relied
on encoders and resolvers to work out
where the rotor is at any point, but they
cost money and provide a further point of
failure, affecting overall reliability. It is
possible to estimate the motor position
using stator currents and voltages,
although the accuracy of this technique
is not very good at low speeds without
further signal processing. This is where
more sophisticated vector control
algorithms come in they provide a
more accurate way of working out where
a rotor is. In general, the more processing
power you throw at the problem, the
more accurate this estimated position

pwm
inverter

a, b, c
Clarke
transform

ib

Load

AC
motor

quadrature force while keeping direct


force to a minimum. Field oriented control
translates the electrical readings and
model into a direct quadrature coordinate
system, normally fixed to the rotor, to
ease the calculations for the desired flux.
However, the calculations typically the
Park and Clarke transforms are
mathematically intensive.
The Clarke transform takes the three
phase currents and uses them estimate
currents in a Cartesian coordinate
system. These are then taken by the Park
transform to provide currents that make
sense in the direct quadrature coordinate
system. These currents, together with the
flux angle, are then used to calculate the
electric torque of the motor.
The slip in a sensorless motor can also
be estimated from the measured
currents. The accuracy of this estimation
depends again on the complexity of the

22 February 2011 27

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Technology Watch Motor Control

The ACEEE regards drive systems as being


the frontier of energy saving possibilities for
semiconductors mostly to reduce the
variability in supply voltage

Fig 2: Direct torque motor control


udc
Inverter switch
look up table

Torque
comparator
Te*

s2

s3

sa

Inverter

sb

s1
s4

s*

s5
Flux
comparator

sc

s6

Flux
sector
us
Torque and flux
estimator
is
Load

mathematics. Much of the effort in


advanced motor control is now going into
this area as it provides the greatest gains
in efficiency the closer the slip estimate
is to reality, the less power is wasted.
Traditionally, one of the most common
techniques for estimating actual motor
speed uses sampled phase voltages and
currents fed into an adaptive motor model
to estimate the reactive power. The
advantage of this technique over other
proposals is that it does not need any
knowledge of stator resistance, which is
prone to change with temperature. Not
having to know the stator resistance
therefore makes the model more tolerant
to changes in motor conditions.
However, the relationship between
motor speed and the measured voltages
and currents of the individual phases is
not simple. The model reference adaptive
system deals with that problem indirectly
by calculating the reactive power using
two different sets of equations.

28

22 February 2011

AC
motor

There are two models in the system.


One is a reference model that calculates
the reactive power at a point in time
without any reference to the mechanical
speed of the motor it relies on the back
electromotive force of the motor. A second
adaptive model uses an estimate of
motor speed. A closed loop proportional
integral (PI) controller drives the adaptive
model to produce the same reactive
power output as the reference model and
to produce a more accurate estimate of
the motors rotational speed. A big
problem with this technique is that it does
not account for mechanical losses and, as
with other approaches, it does not have
good accuracy at low speeds.
More powerful dsps are gradually
making it feasible to use a potentially
more accurate system: the extended
Kalman filter. The great advantage of the
Kalman filter is that it is good at removing
the influence of noise from the model.
With a Kalman filter, the estimated

variables are corrected with a predictor


that relies on a set of state and variance
matrices. The matrices themselves are
derived from a relatively complex system
of equations. The problem with using the
Kalman filter is that it relies on matrix
inversions and a large number of matrix
multiplications greatly increasing the
number of operations needed per second
to derive an accurate correction for the
slip speed. As dsp performance improves
and chipmakers add hardware
coprocessing support for matrix
operations, the Kalman filter is likely to
become a more widely used technique.
Direct torque control (see fig 2)
provides an alternative to field oriented
control. Instead of using coordinate
transforms and a current based model to
estimate flux angle, this technique applies
two hysteresis comparators and a look up
table of switching states. This results in a
relatively simple implementation.
Without the PI controller, response
time is better but the variation in flux
and torque can be large. One approach
used to improve accuracy was to apply
fuzzy logic. An alternative is to use
space vector pulsewidth modulation,
using the measured current and voltage
applied to a model of the motor, to derive
an output voltage level. This sounds
simple, but relies on the ability to solve a
system of quadratic equations.
Field oriented and direct torque control
offer advantages in different
circumstances. Typically, direct torque
control wins when transient response is
important. Field oriented control tends to
offer better efficiency with unpredictable
load. As the mathematical understanding
of these systems improves and more
hardware support is added that
situation may change.

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Research & Development Directives & Standards

Regulations retrospective
A round up of legislative developments that electronic engineers
need to be aware of. By Gary Nevison.

he debate around the so called RoHS recast has seen many


twists and turns of late. A series of meetings, involving the
European Parliament, European Commission and Council of
Ministers, took place in an attempt to agree on the key issues and to
smooth the way for the revised scope of the RoHS Directive to enter
into force at the end of 2012 or early in 2013.
An open scope was proposed, under which all products not
currently listed in categories 1 to 10 would be added to a new category
11, unless specifically excluded. With some EU Member States
opposing this without a comprehensive risk assessment, a
compromise was reached and open scope will not be implemented

REACH
There will soon be more than 50 SVHCs; 38 were
in place by June 2010, a further 11 in December
2010 and six more are likely to hit the Candidate
List shortly. European Chemical Agency (ECHA)
sources suggest that, over time, up to 700
SVHCs could be added to the Candidate List.
However, progress is slow and the latest
estimate is 130 by the end of 2012.
REACH, unlike RoHS, is not just about
providing a certificate of compliance; it drives
the flow of safety information through the entire
supply chain. This includes automatically
providing a (Material) Safety Data Sheet (SDS) at
the point of first order, and when the SDS is
revised by the manufacturer. This obligation
places a significant financial burden on industry.

www.newelectronics.co.uk

until probably 2021.


Further restricted substances were also a possibility, with 37
substances including brominated flame retardants, beryllium, PVC
and many REACH Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC)
considered for priority assessment. However, this proposal was
dropped as it was felt it would not survive a vote of the full parliament.
Plans to ban nanosilver and carbon nanotubes were also dropped.
RoHS will be subject to CE marking requirements, which will see
more data and information requirements flowing through the supply
chain. These include the need to retain a copy of any declarations for
10 years and to have them readily available.

Gathering SVHC data has proved a challenge


for the electronics industry, with a shortage of
information and a generally slow response
from manufacturers at the top of the supply
chain.
This happened with the RoHS Directive during
2005 and 2006, but the response to requests for
REACH substance data has been ponderous and
there is still a lack of understanding in many
areas.
Selected substances then face approval for
authorisation of use and this exercise must be
completed within a specified period and before
its sunset date once added to Annex XIV. Where
approval is not granted, a substance cannot be
used in manufacturing or be imported into the
EU. Thereafter, any downstream user can only
procure the product from the source of the
authorisation request, assuming it has been
granted.
New safety symbols will be introduced and
added to data sheets as part of the Classification,
Labelling and Packaging of substances and
mixtures requirements and the phased
migration to new global harmonised systems
(GHS).

China RoHS
In October 2009, the
Chinese Government
published the first draft
catalogue of Electronic
Information Products that will be subject to China
RoHS restrictions. While the catalogue will be
updated periodically, the initial scope is limited
to telephones of all kind and all types of printers
that attach to a computer. There are six
substance restrictions and their maximum
concentration limits are generally the same as
with RoHS.
Companies exporting products into China for
sale in China will require their products to be tested
and certified as compliant by an approved Chinese
test house. This may create a bottleneck as the
obligations will enter into force just ten months
after the legislation is adopted by the Chinese
Government. Currently, no details of authorised
test houses or standards have been published.
The second China catalogue, once published,
is likely to continue with the consumer theme
and include products such as tvs, vcrs and dvds.
However, there are proposals of China RoHS2
with the scope aligned to the original EU RoHS.

22 February 2011 29

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Research & Development Directives & Standards

Energy Related Products

More measures are expected to enter into force


during the coming months under the Energy
related Products (formerly Energy using
Products) Directive. These will focus on energy
efficiency in use, reduced standby and off mode
losses, as well as labelling and information on
environmental performance.
The requirements, for example, include the
phasing out of linear power supplies in favour of
switch mode devices and specific information on
packaging and data sheets for certain lamps.

Batteries
Manufacturers or importers of batteries into the
EU must be aware of specific labelling
requirements. Many batteries, especially from
the Far East, are failing compliance due to the

30

22 February 2011

size of the wheelie bin logo and/or the


hazardous substance symbols.
Cadmium and mercury are now restricted
and, while lead is permitted, it must have a
symbol on the battery if more than a specified
concentration.
In the near future, batteries will have to be
marked to indicate their capacity, which could
clearly be of benefit to users.
Batteries supplied in equipment have the
same restrictions and must be marked in the
same way as batteries supplied separately. There
are specific requirements for equipment which
must be designed to enable users to readily
remove and replace batteries, other than where
there is a safety, performance, medical or data
integrity exemption.
Any company manufacturing equipment that
contains a battery needs to be aware of its
responsibilities.

Conflict
materials
Something about
which the industry is
going to hear more is the neatly titled DoddFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer
Protection Act, signed into law by President
Obama in July 2010.
The section of the Act covering conflict
minerals requires that companies registered

with the Securities and Exchange Commission


must disclose annually whether they have used
particular minerals from the Democratic Republic
of the Congo or an adjoining country. If a
company did use such minerals, it will have to
submit a report to the SEC describing how it
exercised due diligence on the source and supply
chain of such minerals, including an
independent private sector audit and a
description of the products manufactured that
contain such minerals. These minerals are:
columbite-tantalite (coltan, a principal source of
tantalum); cassiterite (a principal source of tin);
gold; wolframite (a source of tungsten); their
derivatives and any other mineral determined by
the Secretary of State.

Conclusion
So, what will the next couple of years bring?
Certainly more substance restrictions, whether it
be REACH or RoHS, more products falling within
scope of the regulations, more revised
exemptions, more data requests up and down the
supply chain especially with ad hoc regulations, a
greater focus on the content and quality of data
sheets, and probably more frustration, cost and
resource issues for the SME.
Author profile:
Gary Nevison is head of legislation for Premier
Farnell (www.premierfarnell.com)

www.newelectronics.co.uk

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P032_NELE_FEB22

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Page 32

I wish my scope could give


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32

22 February 2011

V-11_2010-GY-5316

Agilent Technologies, Inc. 2011

Brighton
Shaftesbury Court,
95Ditchling Road
Brighton, Sussex.
BN1 4ST
Tel. 01273 622446
Fax 01273 622533
Brighton@msc-ge.com

Milton Keynes
2, The Stocks,
Cosgrove,
Milton Keynes, Bucks.
MK19 7JD
Tel. 01908 263999
Fax 01908 263 003
Miltonkeynes@msc-ge.com

Weybridge
Lock House,
Hamm Moor Lane
Weybridge, Surrey.
KT15 2SF
Tel. 01932 268990
Fax 01932 848610
Weybridge@msc-ge.com

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Page 33

Embedded Design Board Level Technology

Cores for celebration


Intels second generation Core processors have been
welcomed by a range of companies developing board level
products. By Graham Pitcher.

here was a time when the industrial


computing market wasnt that interested in
such aspects as power consumption and
graphics performance. But times change; today,
these figures are of high importance to product
developers, along with another important
parameter, that of size.
So the recent introduction by Intel of the
SandyBridge range of processors officially
known as the second generation iCore processor
range has had an enthusiastic welcome from
board manufacturers, particularly because Intel
has committed to support the new family for
seven years.
The performance boost has come from
moving to a 32nm process, but SandyBridge has
been further enhanced by the application of what
Intel calls a visibly smart microarchitecture in
which visual and 3d graphics technology is
integrated with the processor core on one chip.

single board computers with GE Intelligent


Platforms, said: One of the key things is the
vector engine. Instead of just being a processor,
the device has also got good floating point
capability, which makes it ideal for radar. He
compared the approach with Freescales Altivec
technology. Its along the same lines, but better.
congatecs business development manager
Bob Pickles also highlighted the benefit of more
cores. Customers are running more software
and more cores means more processing power.
congatec is always looking at new chipsets in
order to develop a scalable set of COM cards.
This allows customers to pick the best card for
their application.
congatecs offering is the conga-BM67. This is
available in two formats: with the Core i7-2710; or
with the Core i5-2510. It boasts six PCI-Express
lanes, four serial ATA links and eight USB ports.

Seven devices in the range


So far, seven devices have been released: two
quad core Core i7 parts running at 2.1GHz; two
dual core Core i5 parts running at 2.5GHz; a quad
core i7 running at 3.4GHz; a quad core i5 running
at 3.1GHz; and a dual core i3 running at 3.3GHz.
Total device power ranges from 35W for the dual
core 2.5GHz i5 to 95W for the quad core 3.4GHz i7.
Nigel Forrester, market development manager
for Emerson Network Power, explained the
attraction of the chip. For the first time, we have
access to a chipset with four processor cores
that has a thermal design power of 45W.
Forrester noted that Emersons customers are
pushing for products which offer more MIPS/W,
but he added that graphics performance is

www.newelectronics.co.uk

Forrester: For the first time,


we have access to a chipset with
four processor cores that has a
thermal design power of 45W.
becoming equally important. For example, if
youre looking to build gaming machines with two
or three displays showing real time video, then
graphics performance is very important. If you
can access internal graphics capability, then it
saves having to use an external graphics card,
which saves cost.
Richard Kirk, global product manager for

Gaming has particular needs


Pickles also pointed out the importance of the
graphics capability. If you look at a 3d arcade
gaming system, its graphics and video intensive.
You need a more powerful product to handle that,
but it needs to be in the same form factor.
Emerson is also using the Corei7-2710 and
Core i5-2510 in its products, but these adopt the
Mini ITX form factor. Featured on board is one x16
PCI Express socket, two SATA 6G and two SATA 3G
headers, four USB ports on 9pin headers and two
USB ports on eUSB headers. It says the board is
designed for applications such as intelligent
kiosks, digital signage, medical cart and slot
machines. The part has also been design with
future Core processors in mind.
Kirk said that, from a generic point of view, the

22 February 2011 33

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14:07

Page 34

Embedded Design Board Level Technology

Emerson Network Power is using the Core processor in


the MITX-CORE-800, a Mini ITX format motherboard

graphics processor is the more important


development. The first generation of the Core i7
gave significant improvement on what came
before. Now, its at least twice the performance
with the second generation. The graphics engine
is also a viable alternative to a separate graphics
card so, instead of having to buy two products,
they can buy one and leave a mezzanine site free
for another application.
Available in a range of formats
Embedded computing developer Kontron is also
adopting the new processors; its first offering is
the ETXexpress-SC, a COM Express board. But it
plans to bring the Core processor to market in a
range of formats. Within the next few weeks,
Mini-ITX and Flex-ATX embedded motherboards
will be launched, as well as a 6U CompactPCI
blade. Other platforms planned for 2011 include
3U CompactPCI, 3U VPX, AdvancedMC, PCIe/104
and ATX.
Why does Kontron rate the new Core
processors? As well as incorporating a memory
controller with error correction and PCI-Express
2.0, the processor includes a power graphics unit
on the same die. The units clock speed is
variable, which optimises power consumption,
and the new ring architecture allows the graphics
and processor cores to share resources
efficiently. Application developers will benefit
from improved computing power and graphics
performance whilst energy efficiency remains
the same.
Forrester pointed out that Intel has done

34

22 February 2011

some specific things with the Core processor.


Were taking advantage of some of these, he
said, including the AVX instruction set.
AVX, or advanced vector instructions, is a 256
bit instruction set extension designed for floating
point intensive applications. It enables higher

Kirk: We have recently been


developing gpu based products.
These need a hefty processor
and the fastest possible
interconnect. All of a sudden,
we can double throughput.

video processing performance, he added. Some


applications, including diagnostic imaging, get
that for free, he added.
Emerson is also using the vPro features,
which enhance security.
Another Intel enhancement is Turbo Boost,
which shifts or reallocates processor cores and
graphics resources in order to give an immediate
performance boost when needed.
GE Intelligent Platforms has built the SBC324
around the dual and quad core versions of the
Core i7. The 3U VPX board is expected to find use
beyond the traditional military applications,
potentially in signal processing. Kirk said: Boards
based on the new Core processor wont open up
brand new markets to us, but they will allow us to
get into more markets on a more regular basis.
For example, we have recently been
developing gpu based products. These need a
hefty processor and the fastest possible
interconnect. All of a sudden, we can double
throughput.
Ideal for radar
Kontron believes products based on the new
Core processors will be ideal for applications in
which large amounts of data have to be
processed in a limited thermal envelope.
Examples include radar, image processing and
video surveillance. It also points out that Core
based products can also control up to three
displays independently of each other and can
support cable runs of up to 10m.
Forrester said that second generation Core
processors probably offer 25% more
performance, depending on what youre doing.
But the fact that you can do more for less is an
advantage and it encourages companies to
refresh designs.
Pickles said that not every customer was
looking for high performance. Some are looking
for low power, so its important to have a range of
options.
Kirk concluded: MIPS/W is an important
metric, but it does depend on what youre doing
with the system. The latest Core processors are
not just a die shrink, they bring better efficiency.

For further information on


any subject visit:
www.newelectronics.co.uk

www.newelectronics.co.uk

P035_NELE_FEB22

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10:43

Page 35

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P036_NELE_FEB22.qxp:Layout 1

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Page 36

Serving a purpose
The ARM architectures low power consumption is beginning to attract the attention of
companies addressing the server market. By Roy Rubenstein.

36

22 February 2011

dram. Three Armada XP SoCs, including the


MV78460, support a 32 or 64bit memory data
interface, while the rest have a 32bit bus.
The MV78460 includes two serial ATA (SATA),
four PCI Express and four Gigabit Ethernet (GbE)
media access controllers (MACs). These 10
controllers share 16 6GHz serdes, so the PCI
Express controllers could be configured as three
x4 ports and one x1 port, while the chip cojuld
also support two SATA interfaces and a GbE
interface. The Ethernet MAC supports the QSGMII
interface such that all four GbE ports can be put
onto a single serial link.
One design challenge with the MV78460,
according to Marvell, was cramming four cores
and the I/O peripherals onto an SoC. We have
multiple fast I/O that must coexist in the system,
said Erez Alfiya, an application manager at Marvell.

has a limited ability for instruction look ahead,


boosting code throughput by reordering the
sequence in which instructions are processed.
There are five devices in the Armada XP family:
two single core; two dual core; and a quad core, the
MV78460 (see fig 1). All are pin compatible, but
vary in the on chip peripherals, cache size and the
width of the memory interface.
Each ARM cpu on the MV78460 has a 32kbyte
instruction cache and 32kbyte data cache, while
the four cores share a 2Mbyte L2 cache. The other
Armada XP SoCs have a 1Mbyte L2 cache. The L2
cache is doubled in size in the MV78460 to
maintain processing performance.
Sheeva cores access external memory through
a controller, with the processor supporting DDR3
memory clocked at 800MHz. The device has 40bit
physical addressing that supports up to 1Tbyte of

Fig 1: Block diagram of an Armada XP infrastructure SOC

Shared L2 cache
2Mbyte

Sheeva cpu
with fpu

Secured boot
Advanced
power mgt
DDR3/L
controller

Coherency fabric

Device bus,
NAND, spi,
uarts, i2c, SDIO

4 x GbE
QSGMII
16 lane serdes

ower consumption in data centres is


becoming an increasingly important issue
no surprise when these centres can
house tens of thousands of servers. So there is a
push towards the development of processors
which offer higher performance with lower power
consumption.
This emerging market is attracting the
attention of a number of processor developers,
including Marvell. Marvell is targeting data
centres that support cloud computing and which
provide web services, said Linley Gwennap,
principal analyst at The Linley Group. In those
cases, there would be some significant interest in
what Marvell is doing.
The latest processor family from Marvell, the
Armada XP (Extreme Performance), uses the low
power ARM architecture to deliver a 1.6GHz quad
core variant that has the processing performance
needed for the enterprise market. According to
Viren Shah, Marvells senior director of marketing
for embedded SoCs, the device family is aimed at
networking, network attached storage, laser
printers and the server market. The server
market is dominated by the x86 [architecture],
but ARM is making forays into that segment and
the reason is mainly its low power, said Shah.
Power is the all important metric. With the
quad core design, our goal is to be sub 10W, said
Shah. This is a noteworthy figure; according to
Gwennap, Intels Xeon processor consumes
around 40W. Even at that power level, Xeon is not
designed as an SoC. In addition to Xeon, a South
Bridge chip and Ethernet controllers would also be
needed.
Marvell has Sheeva, an ARM based core
developed after gaining an architectural license
when it acquired Intels XScale business in 2006.
Sheeva, which is ARM v6 and v7 instruction set
compatible, is a two issue design: either two
integer instructions or an integer and floating
point are issued each clock cycle. The core also

4 x IDMA
4 x XOR

System crossbar

2 x SATA II

LCD with LVDS


3 x USB
host/dev
PCI-E

PCI-E

PCI-E

PCI-E

Security engine
2 x 1Gbit/s

TDM
interface
32 x VoIP

3 x USB
PHY

www.newelectronics.co.uk

P036_NELE_FEB22.qxp:Layout 1

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15:26

Page 37

Communications Design Processors

Contention on one
affects the whole system
performance.
To this end, an on chip crossbar switch
connects the cores and the L2 cache, as well as
the peripherals as they access DDR3 memory. The
interface between each core and the L2 cache is
128bit wide and includes a coherency unit, which
ensures cache coherency by updating the cache
whenever data is written to external memory.
The crossbar switch also supports the various
on chip blocks. That is a lot of bandwidth we need
to supply to the different I/Os, said Alfiya. As an
example, he cites the case of a GbE interface being
used alongside two PCI Express ports. You have

traffic coming from the Ethernet port and


from the two PCI Express ports.
You need to balance
the traffic and
allow DDR
access to the
three interfaces,
said Alfiya. We
have arbitration
between the units
because only one unit
can access the DDR at
any time.
Other on chip
peripherals include a
security engine and support
for VoIP via a time division
multiplexing (TDM) interface.
The security engine can encrypt
2Gbit/s data streams using such algorithms as AES
and 3DES. With the TDM interface, the SoC supports
up to 32 channels of VoIP.
Marvell uses several power saving techniques
to limit the MV78460s power consumption to
10W. The device can power down unused cpus and
vary the clock frequency dynamically to adapt
power consumption to processing load. In sleep
mode, the cpus can be turned off while the L2
cache remains powered. In deep sleep mode, the

Fig 2: Block diagram of the ARM Cortex-A15 MPcore


ARM CoreSight multicore debug and trace
Generic interrupt control and distribution
FPU/NEON
data engine

FPU/NEON
data engine

FPU/NEON
data engine

FPU/NEON
data engine

Integer cpu
virtual
40bit PA

Integer cpu
virtual
40bit PA

Integer cpu
virtual
40bit PA

Integer cpu
virtual
40bit PA

L1 caches
with ECC

L1 caches
with ECC

L1 caches
with ECC

L1 caches
with ECC

Snoop control unit and L2 cache


Direct
cache
transfers

Snoop
filtering

Private
peripherals

Accelerator
coherence

128bit AMBA4 advanced coherent bus interface

www.newelectronics.co.uk

L2 cache is saved in dram before being powered


down. The I/O ports then wake the cpus when data
arrives.
The GbE MACs are Energy Efficient Ethernet
compliant (see NE, 25 January 2011) and support
DDR3L. Because DDR3L operates at 1.35V, instead
of 1.5V, this can reduce power consumption by up
to 20%.
The device can run one operating system in
symmetric multiprocessing mode or
asymmetrically. The latter is less common for
servers, but features more widely in embedded
applications, where the cores can run separate
operating systems.
By integrating everything onto one chip,
Marvell has designed a single chip quad core
server, said Gwennap. This is different to Intels
approach, where two Xeon multicore chips can
be put side by side a so called two socket
server configuration. You cannot do that with
the Marvell chip, said Gwennap. Marvell has
boiled the whole server down to a chip; if you
want to scale it, you have to add a whole new,
separate, server.
The Armada XP is currently implemented on
TSMCs 40nm G cmos process, although the
roadmap includes an eight core design at the
28nm node. The Sheeva cores will be clocked at
3GHz or more, while the SoC will support 10Gbit
Ethernet and the PCI Express 3.0 specification.
But Marvell isnt the only company looking to
bring ARM cores to the server market and ARM is
seeding the process with a quad core reference
design for the Cortex-A9 architecture, while the
basic design for the Cortex-A15 is also quad core
(see fig 2).
One contender is Calxeda, in which ARM is an
investor. It is using a quad core implementation of
the Cortex-A9 but, because it is limited to four
cores per die, it will probably need to use multiple
chips to match the performance of Xeon
processors. But the startup is not providing
details on the interconnect or the blocks it plans to
integrate.
We are going to see a lot of quad core CortexA15 designs coming out in a year or so, Gwennap
concluded.

Error
correction

For further information on


any subject visit:
www.newelectronics.co.uk

22 February 2011 37

P038_NELE_FEB22

15/2/11

14:37

Page 38

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38

22 February 2011

TEST & MEASUREMENT

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P039_NELE_FEB22.qxp:Layout 1

17/2/11

12:50

Page 39

System Design Power

Easing design headaches


How programmable supplies can meet specific requirements without
the need for custom hardware. By Andrew Skinner.
ower supplies with digital control are gaining
in popularity. However the term digital
control has two quite different meanings.
Digital power management is where customers
communicate with the power supply to monitor
status and adjust certain parameters remotely,
such as voltage and current limit. Digital power
conversion, meanwhile still in its infancy in
terms of commercially available products
involves replacement of the common power supply
analogue control loop with a digital control loop.
Flexibility is one of the major advantages of
power supplies using digital power conversion,
where customer specific optimisations can be
achieved without the time and expense of
changing the hardware.
The programmable soft start characteristic of
TDK-Lambdas EFE series of power supplies is
mostly used where a system has dc/dc
converters being powered by the product. There
are two distinct problems that can arise with
dc/dc converters powered from ac/dc supplies.
The first is the high inrush current required to
charge the large input filter capacitance required
by most dc/dc converters. The second is the
inrush current created when they start up. This
second inrush occurs when the supply voltage to
the converter exceeds its undervoltage lockout
threshold (UVLO). The converter then tries to

www.newelectronics.co.uk

quickly charge its output capacitance, which can


result in a large current at the input.
How the ac/dc supplys overcurrent protection
works dictates what happens next most power
supplies would have some form of constant
current protection for a short period of time during
which the output voltage may stay flat or it may
even go down (causing a non monotonic rise) due

to the dc/dc converter inrush current. The worst


case scenario, as far as the dc/dc converter is
concerned, is that the output voltage of the power
supply drops below the UVLO threshold because of
the current being demanded. At that point, the
dc/dc converter switches off. This condition can
become cyclic and precisely what that looks like
and how long it takes is quite dependent on the

Fig 1: EFE300 start up when driving POL converters

EFE output voltage

EFE output current

Two POL output voltages

22 February 2011 39

P039_NELE_FEB22.qxp:Layout 1

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12:50

Page 40

System Design Power

Fig 2: Connecting power supplies in parallel


The effects of connecting two power supplies in parallel without share control

psu 1

Output

Voltage

psu1

Current
psu2

psu2
Load
Parallel connected power supplies incorporating droop share

psu 1

Output

psu2

Voltage

psu1

psu2
Current

specific power supply and the specific converter.


Fig 1 shows an EFE300 starting up into five
point of load (POL) dc/dc converters and the
7000F of low impedance capacitors connected
on their inputs. The POL converters are paralleled
to provide two output voltages with a controlled
soft start, resulting in only a small second inrush.
In this example, after the initial peak,
approximately half the rated current of the
EFE300 (25A) is being used to charge the input
filter capacitors of the converters.
With the EFE series of power supplies, the soft
start characteristics include soft start time,
current limit thresholds, allowed current limit on
time and the output voltage level at which control
is handed over to the main control loop. The
handover point can be tailored on a customer
specific basis, if needed.
From fig 1, if the voltage at which the POL
converters start up was lower, then the second
inrush could coincide with the first inrush, causing
the overcurrent protection to operate. In situations
like this, the current limit characteristics of the
EFE series power supply could be modified to
enable the application to function correctly during
soft start without affecting the normal operating
limits. Meanwhile, the customer still has the

40

22 February 2011

benefit of receiving standard hardware.


The programmable soft start characteristic can
also be beneficial for other applications involving
non linear loads, such as fans, motors and drives.
When two or more power supplies are
connected in parallel, the one with the highest
output voltage will supply the load; the second unit
only supplies current when the output voltage of
the first falls below the voltage of the second.
For supplies with a small variation in output
voltage with load, no sharing may occur until the
first power supply is overloaded and enters its
current limit (see Fig 2).
The normal solution is to have a separate circuit
that forces current sharing usually a single wire
connection between all paralleled power supplies
known as a current share bus. The bus effectively
acts as a current demand reference and the
supplies endeavour to follow this.
In theory, this is a good solution since it
maintains load regulation. In practice, it doesnt
tend to work well at light loads and it is not
uncommon to require a minimum load for sharing
to occur.
The current share bus is also a single point of
failure loss of the bus could result in zero
demand to the supplies. One of the main reasons

for paralleling power supplies is to improve


reliability by having an N+1 setup; having a single
failure point defeats the object.
A less common solution to provide sharing
between paralleled power supplies is to increase
the load regulation (the amount by which the
output voltage changes with load). If the output
voltage changes quickly with load current, not as
much current is needed in the higher voltage
power supply before the lower voltage one starts
to carry current (fig 2). In this scheme there is no
share bus and no single point of failure. In some
high reliability applications, this is the preferred
method of current sharing, called droop sharing.
Clearly, some applications require droop. The
normal setting for a single power supply unit with
the EFE series is a nominally zero slope. However,
for paralleling, rather than having a fixed output
characteristic, load regulation is a programmable
feature. Effectively, this feature allows the 50%
load point voltage to be set within the range from
-5 to 10% of nominal and load regulation can be
programmed with a positive or a negative slope.
The control algorithm is programmed such that
the slope is always within the specified output
range.
The beauty of digital power conversion in
supplies such as the EFE range is that customer
specific droop characteristics can be created
using simple software changes with standard
hardware, thus reducing cost, speeding time to
market and improving overall system reliability
Optimising power supply performance has
become possible due to TDK-Lambdas strategic
decision to develop digital power conversion
intellectual property from scratch. In order to take
maximum advantage of the flexibility that digital
power conversion can bring, designers need to
understand the algorithms involved.
Unfortunately, start up issues like these often
materialise late in the design process. The way in
which the load starts is a very important attribute
and one that is not always considered when
specifying a power supply.
Author profile:
Andrew Skinner is chief technology officer of TDKLambda UK.

For further information on


any subject visit:
www.newelectronics.co.uk

www.newelectronics.co.uk

P041_NELE_FEB22

15/2/11

14:38

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P042_NELE_FEB22.qxp:Layout 1

17/2/11

12:55

Page 46

Marketwatch Component Prices

Analysis
CATEGORY

DESCRIPTION

NOV

DEC

JAN

Analogue Monolithic

Amplifiers and comparators

0.5

0.5

0.6

Analogue Monolithic

Analogue interface ics

0.1

0.4

0.6

Analogue Monolithic

Voltage regulators and references

0.5

0.5

0.6

Capacitors

Aluminium

0.7

0.2

0.2

Capacitors

Ceramic

-0.1

-0.4

-0.5

Capacitors

Tantalum

0.8

0.4

0.3

0.7

0.2

-0.2

0.3

0.3

-0.2

0.3

0.4

-0.1

Connectors
Resistors

SMD flat chips

Filters
Crystal

kHz

0.5

0.7

0.4

Crystal

MHz

0.4

0.7

0.4

Oscillator

TCXO

0.3

0.1

-0.1

Oscillator

VCXO

0.4

0.6

-0.5

Oscillator

XO

0.2

0.2

-0.2

Magnetics

Ferrite beads

0.4

0.4

Magnetics

Fixed inductors

0.5

0.4

-0.1

Standard Logic

General purpose cmos

0.5

1.1

0.8

Standard Logic

General purpose bicmos

0.6

0.8

0.8

Standard Logic

General purpose bipolar

0.6

1.0

0.9

Rectifier

Schottky and ultrafast

0.5

0.5

0.6

Transistor

Bipolar power

0.6

0.4

0.7

Transistor

Power mosfet

0.6

0.6

0.6

Transistor

Small signal

0.5

0.5

0.6

Memory

Dram

-11.3

-9.8

-1.8

Memory

Flash NAND

-0.6

1.4

1.0

Memory

Flash NOR

-1.6

-1.8

-3.9

Data courtesy of iSuppli


Component prices were reset at zero in September 2007 and show percentage changes per month. Increasing prices are highlighted in red.

42

22 February 2011

Standard logic
Shortages and price increases on
standard commodities such as copper
and aluminum have contributed to
current problems. IHS iSuppli expects
price to continue to increase and for
supply to be constrained during the first
half of 2011, after which investment in
test and assembly capabilities will help
address current bottlenecks.
Power mosfets
Continuing problems in the front and
back end processes at most mosfet
suppliers will see lead times continuing
to extend. This, in turn, will see some
devices from leading suppliers be
placed on allocation. IHS iSuppli expects
this trend will continue during the first
half of 2011. Some relief can be
expected later in the year as suppliers
address the back end constraints.
Aluminium capacitors
While lead times are decreasing, IHS
iSuppli expects them to move out again
in Q3. Aluminum foil has been in short
supply and the price is increasing,
which will affect product prices in the
next quarter.

The iSuppli mission is to reduce the


overall cost of acquisition for
electronic components, whilst
improving the continuity of supply and
simplifying supply chain processes for
ems, oem and supplier communities.
Market Intelligence Services provide
critical information designed to enrich
tactical decisions and strategic plans.
Visit www.isuppli.com

www.newelectronics.co.uk

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Call James Slade on 01322 221144

Technology Update

Battery Chargers

Maxim Integrated Products (NASDAQ: MXIM) introduces the


MAX17435/MAX17535, highly integrated SMBus battery chargers capable of operating at 850kHz and
500kHz, respectively. The SMBus interface enables programming of the charge settings without
changing external components, thus maximizing design flexibility. Programmable settings include
charge current, charge voltage, input current limit, relearn voltage, and digital IINP voltage readback.
Equivalent competitive solutions require the use of external components to program charge settings.
The MAX17435/MAX17535 are ideal for notebook computers, ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs), mobile
internet devices (MIDs), and other battery-powered applications where space is critical.

ITT ICS adds Nemesis lightweight mini-circular


connectors to dynamic 3D modelling website
Engineers can download 3D CAD models for faster prototype design
Leading global connector manufacturer and supplier ITT Interconnect
Solutions has announced that its innovative new Nemesis connectors
are now available as models on its 3D dynamic modelling website
which went live at the end of 2010. This online resource enables design engineers to utilise a single
interface to search for ITT ITCs industrial, commercial, Mil-Spec and Hi-Rel interconnects, select from
various output model formats and directly request the generation of a 3D model. Users can choose
from a range of industry-standard CAD formats and receive the model as a downloadable zip file to
import into their own CAD system for integrating into prototype system designs. This greatly
increases flexibility and enables a number of different prototype designs be tried out to achieve an
optimum solution more quickly and easily.

@: drew.ehrlich@maxim-ic.com
: 408-331-4252

@: david.impett@uk.itt.com
: 01256 311556

Enclosures

Force Tester

Just Touching The Surface... Using A Force Tester


A Korean based company is using a Mecmesin force test system to
establish consistent manufacture and touch uniformity for its navigation
device touch screens. A MultiTest 1-i, rated to 1000N, combined with a 5N
load cell, adjustable X-Y table and compression probes enables the Korean
H Company to test various points of the touch screen at different force
levels to establish reliable operation of the product. The X-Y table provides
added versatility offering users fine precision alignment of the touch
screen beneath the compression probe, so that multiple points can be
tested in quick succession with minimal set-up time required. Using Mecmesins computer-controlled
test system provided Korean H Company with use of its softwares event input facility. Emperor
software monitors when a switch is activated during the test, thereby providing reliable data
regarding the actuation forces involved.

@: sales@rolec-enclosures.co.uk
: 01489 583858

@: sales@mecmesin.com
: +44 (0) 1403 799979

Fuses

Medical Power
New 300W 1u Medical Grade Power Supply
designed for Fanless Operation
Photon Power Technology Ltd has introduced the new 300W
medical grade open frame power supply, the MPM-U300 series
from the highly successful Taiwanese manufacturer Magic Power.
The MPM-300U offers the user 300W under convection cooling
and 360W with forced air. Parallel operating is possible providing
up to 720W with leakage current under 300micro-amps, whilst
the active PFC meets class D and conducted EMC meets CISPR/FCC Class B.
Like many other Magic Power products, The MPM-U300 is designed for fanless operation offering the
OEM user lower noise and higher reliability. It is RoHS compliant, and fits within 1U height constraints
with outline dimensions of 198(L) x 97(W) x 41(H) mm and has a convection cooled operating
temperature range from -20 to 50C with no de-rating.

PCT Screens

Power Supplies

Optically Bonded Projective


Capacitive Touch (PCT) Screens
deliver enhanced readability to TFT
displays.

HiTek Powers high


performance, 10kW high
voltage power supply
systems

Optical Bonding has the following benefits:


Display designs are thinner and hence lighter Prevents fogging of the display as there is no air
gap Sunlight readability is greatly increased by up to 4x Scratch resistance increased by up to 3x
Resists moisture, dirt and dust Wide temperature operation without any change in performance

HiTek Powers Series OL10K is a range of


10kW power supplies designed to meet
the rigorous requirements of ion and
electron beam systems. These highly
reliable, rugged systems comprise two
units, a rack mounting power converter
through which remote controls are
facilitated, and a separate HV unit employing a modular disc construction. Numerous
features are incorporated to ensure system integrity is maintained during adverse operating
conditions. Output voltages range from 60kV to 200kV depending on model.

@: sales@gpegint.com
: 08704 931433

@: sales.uk@hitekpower.com
: 01903 712400

Leading display innovator GPEG International has


developed Optical Bonding processes that eliminate the
problems associated with conventional PCT cover plates
while at the same time providing a number of readability enhancements.

www.hitekpower.com

@: info@mgpower.co.uk
: 01243 373551

www.gpegint.com

@: pernickyj@avxeur.com
: +420 575 757 540

www.mgpower.co.uk

AVX Corporation, a leading manufacturer of advanced passive


components and interconnect solutions, has extended the
current rating of the Accu-Guard II Low Current Series to
include 200mA, 150mA, 100mA, 62.5mA and 50mA versions
in a 0402 package. The miniature 0402 low current fuse
utilizes thin film and land grid array (LGA) technologies to enable precise control of the components
electrical and physical characteristics, which is not possible with standard fuse technologies. The UL
E141069 approved, RoHS compliant Accu-Guard Series fuses are ideal for handheld devices including,
cell phones, PDAs, two-way radios, and video/digital cameras, as well as hard disk drives (HDD), LCD
screens, computers, instrumentation, battery chargers and rechargeable battery packs.

www.avx.com

AVX extends current rating of industrys


lowest current 0402 fuse to include
200mA and 50mA versions

www.mecmesin.com

ROLEC have developed the new aluCLIC enclosures


which feature a snap-on mounting device that replaces
the traditional wall mounting screws. With this device,
pre-assembled systems can be mounted in situ without
the need to open the enclosure. Thus the electronics can
be installed and replaced with just a simple click. The
enclosures are sealed to IP67 and IP69K and are
manufactured in die cast aluminium and painted light
grey, RAL 7035. Three standard sizes are offered: 130 x
90 x 70 mm, 160 x 110 x 70 mm and 200 x 130 x 70mm.

www.rolec-enclosures.co.uk

IP67 Aluminium Enclosures with


Snap-on Device

www.itt.com

The SMBus interface of Maxims new battery chargers permits


programming of the charge current, charge voltage, input current limit,
relearn voltage, and digital IINP voltage readback.

Connectors
www.maxim-ic.com

Highly integrated, 850kHz/500kHz SMBusprogrammable battery chargers

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