Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Automotive Applications

Product development services for a range of automotive applications, including mobile satellite communications and automotive cruise control radars.

For satellite communications applications, ERA has pioneered the use of unique low cost, very low profile scanning antennas. Designed initially for reception of satellite TV services in Ku-Band, the technology is being used on recreational vehicles, sports utility vehicles, buses, coaches and trains. The technology can readily be extended to higher frequency bands, for example to serve future interactive services in Ka-Band.
Low profile satcom antenna designed by ERA in collaboration with Winegard
ERA has applied its novel twist reflector antenna technology to Automotive Cruise Control Radar systems which operates in the 77GHz band. Using its unique manufacturing processes, ERA has been able to incorporate a total of eight high performance antennas into a single housing.

This housing is also used to accommodate the RF electronics and to provide heat sinking for the high power components. De-icing of the radome is also possible. Production costs are compatible with application of the sensor system across a wide range of automotive platforms.

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Single-chip receiver for mobiles handles TV and radio

Start-up Mirics Semiconductor describes its new MS1001 RF-tuner IC (Picture) as a "polyband" device for mobile digital-broadcast reception. Although several companies have recently made announcements that focus on the mobile-TV sector, Mirics says that its chip has much wider applicability, covering multiple broadcast standards. The chip covers broadcast bands ranging from 100 kHz to 1.9 GHz.

The primary target market is the mobile phone. The company forecasts that, by 2009, some 20% of all phones will have mobile TV, but a much higher proportion will have radio capability, and the fraction that does have TV will encompass numerous standards. Mirics aims to provide the receiver function for TV and radio at the same cost and power level as FM radio alone. All the chip's signal processing is analog, and the chip reconfigures and reconnects its on-chip functional blocks in response to external commands, depending on the band and signal type. This reconfiguration extends to the basic architecture of the receiver function. In some cases, the receiver uses a direct-conversion, zero-IF layout; in others, it uses a conventional heterodyne architecture. The MS1001 has five RF inputs with individual on-chip low-noise amplifiers. It yields quadrature output signals, and you use a three-wire serial digital port to control the device's configuration, which you can change dynamically. As well as providing a single receiver chip for all bands, Mirics asserts that its product is the cheapest and lowest power device available, at $3.50 (10,000). Mirics aims to further reduce the cost to make the device competitive with chips that provide the FM function alone and to exploit mixed-signal capability to add a flexible on-chip digital demodulation capability

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Monday, October 30, 2006

SOG LCD modules

Targeting high-resolution portable products such as PDAs and GPS units, a family of 2.7- and 3.5-in. system-on-glass (SOG) LTPS LCD modules delivers a resolution of up to 640 x 480 pixels. Available in both transflective and transmissive configurations, the 70%color gamut switching VGA/QVGA devices include a touch panel and can display up to 16.19 million colors using a built-in step interpolation circuit.

The transmissive 3.5-in. 229-ppi LCD has a luminance of 250 nits and a contrast of 400:1, and the 2.7-in. 302-ppi LCD 200 nits at 400:1 contrast. The transflective versions offer a brightness of 200 nits with the 3.5-in. screen, and 180 nits at 2.7 in. (Call for pricing—available Feb. 2007.)

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14-Channel Clock ICs Boast Low Phase

The AD9516 series of clock ICs features low-phase-noise clock generation with 14-channel clock distribution at jitter levels below 1 ps. The devices integrate an integer-N synthesizer, two reference inputs, a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO), programmable dividers, adjustable delay lines, and 14 clock drivers, including LVPECL, LVDS, and CMOS. This high level of integration eliminates several discrete components, reducing board space and costs by more than 50%, according to Analog Devices. Also, integrating the VCO on-chip greatly reduces the risks associated with the failure of discrete oscillators, improving system reliability.

The clock ICs come in five versions, each supporting a specific frequency range. The AD9516-0 includes a VCO that tunes from 2.60 to 2.95 GHz. The other parts cover lower frequencies, down to the AD9516-4's range of 1.50 to 1.90 GHz. The devices can also be used with an external VCO up to 2.4 GHz. Each unit includes six LVPECL outputs that can operate up to the VCO's maximum rate, as well as four/eight outputs that can be programmed to either LVDS (four outputs max) or CMOS (eight outputs max) levels. In LVDS mode, the outputs operate to 1 GHz, and in CMOS mode they operate to 250 MHz. The devices come in 9- by 9-mm, 64-lead lead-frame chip-scale packages.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Digital Signal Controllers Expand Options for Power Conversion and Motor Control

Texas Instruments has expanded its TMS320C2000 family of digital signal controllers by adding new options for on-chip memory and more PWM peripherals. The new controllers include the TMS320F2809 and TMS320F2802 flash-based controllers and custom ROM-based TMS320C2801 and TMS320C2802, which are fully hardware- and software- compatible with the three existing TMS320F280x controllers. With the wider mix of memory options, the new controllers make it easier for system designers to tradeoff memory and cost (see the table). That flexibility will aid designers as they apply these ICs in applications such as motor control, digital power conversion, intelligent sensor control and other applications in industrial, appliance, automotive, medical and consumer products.

The TMS320F2809 offers 256 kbytes of on-chip flash, double the size of the previously introduced ‘F2808. It also increases the number of PWM channels with 150-ps resolution from four to six. In addition, this flagship member of the TMS320C2000 family doubles the sampling speed on the 12-bit pipelined A-D converter to 12.5 Msamples/s. In contrast, most embedded A-D converters are typically limited to sampling rates in the single megahertz range. Furthermore, the F2809’s A-D converter boasts an effective number of bits (ENOB) of 10.9 and is valid across the full -40 to +125° C temperature range. As with other members of the TMS320C2000 family, the ‘F2809 features a 100-MIPS CPU.

The controllers’ high resolution PWMs provide 16 bits of accuracy in a 100-kHz control loop and 12 bits at 1.5 MHz. According to Texas Instruments, competing processors limit accuracy to less than 10 bits at 100 kHz and less than 6 bits at 1.5 MHz. In digital power applications, the higher resolution PWM results in a faster transient response with a smaller ripple amplitude. The high resolution PWM also eliminates ‘limit cycle’ issues, which means power supply designers are able to use digital control in high-switching frequency supplies.

Furthermore, the new combinations of performance, memory, and peripherals offered by the C28x and F28x benefit advanced motor control applications. For example, one TI customer—Self-Guided Systems—recently integrated F280x controllers into the brushless dc motors used to guide the company’s Hybrid Z self-stabilizing, autonomous lawnmower. The mower’s cutting blades triangulate their position based upon mower position and reflector location. The Hybrid Z then navigates itself and cuts grass to a pre-set length without any human intervention.

All C280x and F280x devices feature a 32-bit wide data path for superior performance and mixed 16-/32-bit instruction set for improved code density. These chips provide complete control system capabilities from signal input through the on-chip A-D converter, quadrature encoder pulse (QEP), and timer captures and compares through signal output with up to 16 independent PWM channels. Besides the 150-ps PWMs, there are as many as 10 PWM outputs with 10-ns resolution. For communications, the TMS320C2000 family offers a range of interface options including multiple CAN, I2C, UART and SPI ports.

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Nanotube Computing Breakthrough

The use of carbon nanotubes in ultrafast computers and other electronic devices has been stymied because batches of the material contain nanotubes with varying electronic properties. One nanotube is semiconducting, while the next is conducting. Now Northwestern University researchers have developed a reliable and potentially practical way to sort through this mess, segregating nanotubes into precisely the types needed for high-performance electronics. The advance could speed progress toward nanotube computers and has many nearer-term applications, including high-definition displays, devices for nanotoxicity testing, and solar cells.

The new process separates metallic and semiconducting nanotubes. It also segregates them by diameter (another important parameter for reliable computer chips) and eliminates contaminants, such as other forms of carbon. While the researchers expected to be able to sort nanotubes by diameter, the sorting by electronic type came as a surprise, says Mark Hersam, materials-science and engineering professor and one of the Northwestern researchers. "We didn't believe it at first," he says.

Carbon nanotubes are appealing candidates for eventually replacing silicon-based computing because of their small size and excellent electronic properties: some are semiconductors--perfect for transistors--and others are metallic conductors and could be useful as wires for connecting transistors. But getting the right electronic type "makes a big, big difference," says Mildred Dresselhaus, professor of physics and electrical engineering at MIT. Placing metallic nanotubes where there should be semiconducting nanotubes would cause the chip to fail.

So although researchers have been able to painstakingly create logic circuits using carbon nanotubes (see "Carbon Nanotube Computers"), the methods employed to sort them are "all pretty tedious," Dresselhaus says, and not something that could be scaled up for manufacturing chips with the millions of transistors needed to compete with today's computers. In addition, past methods have failed to completely separate semiconducting and metallic nanotubes, says Richard Martel, chemistry professor at the University of Montreal. Martel calls the Northwestern researchers' new approach, described this month in the new journal Nature Nanotechnology, "a breakthrough in the field."

The researchers begin by adding surfactants to a batch of nanotubes. The surfactants latch on to the nanotubes, but differences in the nanotubes' size and electronic properties cause the surfactants to assemble in different concentrations and arrangements, which in turn lead to measurable differences in density. These distinct densities can be sorted out using a well-known process called ultra-centrifugation, which involves spinning the materials at ultrafast speeds--up to 64,000 revolutions per minute

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Wireless GroundLink® System (WGL)

Teledyne Controls’ Wireless GroundLink® System (WGL) enables aircraft operators to fully automate the recording and transmission of their flight data, therefore eliminating all risk of data loss involved with traditional manual procedures. Offering unprecedented reliability, the GroundLink solution is a unique patented system that records and wirelessly transfers flight data from the aircraft to the ground, without any media handling and human intervention.

Using a Teledyne proprietary protocol, the raw data recorded during flight is compressed, encrypted and then transmitted via cellular technology and the Internet to the airline's or Teledyne's ground-based data center for processing and analysis. With the Teledyne Wireless GroundLink solution, airlines can significantly reduce data delivery delays (the data is typically available within 10-15 minutes after an aircraft has landed, versus several days or weeks with manual data retrieval). Additional operational benefits are realized since human resources, equipment costs and data-loss associated with manual retrieval methods are virtually eliminated.

Key Features of Teledyne's Wireless GroundLink® System

A fast, reliable and cost effective solution to move data on and off the aircraft

QAR data retrieval from aircraft without human involvement

Upload software and databases into on-board aircraft systems

Data accumulated during the flight is compressed and encrypted for security

Simultaneous use of up to eight full duplex radios

Multi-band radios for world wide operation

Upgradable to support emerging cellular data standards

Multiple radio transmission reduces data transfer time

Data delivered world wide, over the Internet

No investment in the infrastructure –Uses existing infrastructure maintained by service providers

Operates in controlled frequency spectrum world wide, protected from interference

End-to-end automation on aircraft data retrieval and analysis when used in conjunction with the AirFASE® flight data analysis tool.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Instrument Ethernet links get standardized

With local area networks (LANs) becoming an enterprise necessity, virtually every desktop and rack-mounted test instrument has a LAN port for remote connectivity. The trouble is, the way test engineers must use that port varies from instrument to instrument. Now, an industry consortium is on the verge of releasing a new standard for controlling test instrumentation over LANs that will simplify the development of automated test software.

The utility of tying bench instruments together to automate test and measurement has long been proven. The venerable GPIB (general purpose instrumentation bus) has been used for more than 30 years. The interface is showing its age, however, and is being challenged by the industry's need for increasing bandwidth, faster data rates, and lower cost in its small- and medium-sized systems.

A number of potential replacements have come forward, including USB, FireWire, and the CANbus, but none has gained widespread support in the industry. This has left a void that Agilent Technologies and VXI Technology sought to fill by creating both the LXI (LAN extensions for instrumentation) standard and the LXI Consortium (www.lxistandard.org) to administer it. Many major instrument companies, including Keithley Instruments and Measurement Computing Corp., have joined the consortium since its creation in September 2004.
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Transmitted-reference methods

TR modulation technique has the advantage of sending the same pulse twice through an unknown channel where both pulses experience the same type of channel distortion and detection becomes easier with a correlation receiver. Therefore, instead of correlating the distorted received pulse with a “clean” template pulse as in PPM, both the data pulse and so called template ("reference pulse") are distorted and show high correlation at the TR receiver. Therefore, there is no need for channel estimation in TR receivers.

Furthermore, a TR receiver is self-synchronized and eliminates the need for individual pulse synchronization with locally generated templates that exists in PPM scheme. The reason is that each "reference pulse" acts as a preamble for its "data pulse" and has the advantage of providing rapid synchronization. Moreover, synchronization in TR receivers occurs after correlation between the "data pulses" and "reference pulses," thus the sampling requirements are relaxed to baseband signals. This way, the need for synchronization of the received short duration RF pulses and very fast ADCs are eliminated.

Another advantage of TR modulation to the other UWB modulation schemes is its high performance in multipath environments. TR receivers exploit multipath phenomenon to improve their performance in dense multipath and indoor channels. This is because the reference and data pulses are correlated with each other, and the multipath channel introduces a longer duration in the signal component of the received signal, thus increasing the overall signal energy at detection stage
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Samsung Electronics Develops Highly-Integrated System-on-Chip for HDTV and Digital Set-Top-Boxes

The S5H2200 is a single-chip solution that incorporates dual HD MPEG-2 decoders, which can simultaneously provide high-quality audio and video for digital broadcasts to the sub-screen as well as to the main screen, an ARM920T-based 330MHz CPU, and the company's proprietary picture improvement function, DNIe (Digital Natural Image Engine).

The S5H2200 supports various display modes such as multiple picture-in-picture (PIP) and picture-in-graphics (PIG), providing an added convenience for digital TV viewers.

It also includes 24-bit digital signal processor (DSP) for high fidelity sound, and supports multiple-input Transport Stream Decoder (TSD)for Personal Video Recorder (PVR) application. Interfaces for various peripherals such as Memory Stick, ATAPI, IEEE1394 and USB make it compatible with external inputs from other digital devices such as digital STB, DVD, game console, and digital camcorder.

Especially, "Platform-base design technology is newly applied so that each function block(CPU, A/V Decoder, DNIe, and DSP) can be independently designed and then integrated with the others. This technology helps designers to upgrade and add new features at each individual IP level without touching the entire design. It is expected that this “platform-based design” greatly reduces time, cost and overall design risk for developing derivative products, as well as providing the framework for responding quickly to future technologies and changing market requirements."

"Our newest SOC device for the digital TV market stands shoulder to shoulder with industry leaders in every core technology from picture quality, performance, data processing, speed, and specialized design architecture,” said Don H. Lee, vice president of Samsung ElectronicsSOC R&D Center. "As the adoption of digital broadcasting increases, HDTV is quickly emerging as a key product in the next-generation digital video segment.”

The US Federal Communications Commission has a determining effect on both regulations governing both American and global broadcasting and communications. The FCC has ruled that 50% of all TVs with screens 36" and larger must be equipped with tuners for digital broadcasting this year. That stipulation will be extended to all TVs with screens of 13” or larger in 2007. Currently, US broadcasters are at least 99% ready to begin digital TV broadcasts.

In 2004, France and Italy are scheduled to begin digital broadcasting, and China will join the group next year. Consumer purchases of stand-alone and built-in-HDTVs are soaring, and demand for fusion products such as the PVR is growing steadily.

Market research firm, iSuppli, puts the average annual growth rate in the digital TV at 66%, and predicts the shipment of digital TV will be increased from 17 million units in 2004 to 77 million units in 2008.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Analog - Low-power data conversion technology enhances portability

Designed to increase the portability of patient and industrial monitors and improve the performance and throughput of automated test equipment (ATE) and data acquisition systems, Analog Devices' AD7980 1-MSPS (mega-sample per second) 16-bit ADC consumes 80 percent less power and board space than the closest competing 16-bit ADC in its class.

"Power consumption is one of the dimensions of data converter performance that receives a lot of attention at ADI," said Dick Meaney, vice president of Precision Signal Processing, Analog Devices. "Offering five times lower power per conversion, combined with outstanding AC and DC linearity, the AD7980 will afford remarkable benefits to end users across many varied applications."

Increasing Patient Comfort - The small package size and reduced power consumption of the AD7980 lends it to the design of lightweight, wearable electrocardiograms (EKGs), blood pressure monitors, oxygen sensors and other medical instruments that wirelessly transmit patient information to a data centre or nurses' station. Such mobility increases patient comfort by allowing them to wear PDA-sized monitors and eliminating the need to push bulky medical equipment when moving around the hospital.

Faster and More Accurate Industrial Instruments - In industrial equipment, the fast sampling rate and low power consumption of the AD7980 allow designers to place critical components closer together to improve system performance and speed. In today's ATE systems, for example, hundreds of measurement pins are used to test each semiconductor wafer, with each pin requiring an individual ADC to reduce costly test time. The wires, switches and multiplexers used to connect the measurement pin to the measurement unit add cost, increase the risk of measurement errors and slow system response time. Also, the resulting heat dissipation is so great that data conversion must be moved from the test head to a separate mainframe. The exponentially lower power of the AD7980, relative to existing ADCs, allows designers to place the new devices adjacent to each measurement pin, simplifying the design and increasing overall system accuracy and throughput. This, in turn, reduces test time, which is a major cost component for users of ATE systems.

Improving Sensor Performance - Unlike competing devices, the power and size advantages of the AD7980 allow designers to incorporate the new ADC and a digital interface into analog sensor packages. This new breed of highly integrated 'smart sensors' eliminates the parasitic effects, signalling errors and delayed response time caused when the ADC is physically separated from the sensor using signal cables. In industrial sensing applications, this allows equipment operators to more easily and accurately measure changes in vibration, pressure and temperature that can degrade system operation.

"At National Instruments, we use ADI's PulSAR converters on a number of our core measurement and industrial I/O products," said Kurt Mandeville, principal hardware engineer at National Instruments Inc. "We see the AD7980 introduction extending PulSAR to a new level of combined high speed, low power, and small size, while preserving the performance we've come to expect from the PulSAR architecture."

The AD7980 PulSAR ADC features 7.5 mW power consumption at 1 MSPS and 75 microwatts at 10kSPS-the lowest power of any 16-bit ADC at any sample rate. Other performance enhancements include 2-LSB maximum INL and 91.5-dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) at 20 kHz. The AD7980 is available in LFCSP/QFN (lead-frame chip-scale package/quad flat no-lead) and MSOP (mini small-outline plastic) packages that, respectively, are five and three times smaller than any competing ADC packages. The AD7980 is pin-compatible with the AD768x MSOP family of 16-bit PulSAR ADCs, for designers looking to upgrade to a 1MSPS sample rate, and is compatible with Analog Devices' ADA4841 driver and buffer op-amps and ADR42x, ADR43x and ADR44x voltage references.

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Transparent Intgrated Circuits

"This is a quantum leap in moving transparent electronics from the laboratory toward working commercial applications," said John Wager, a professor of electrical engineering at OSU. "It's proof that transparent transistors can be used to create an integrated circuit, tells us quite a bit about the speeds we may be able to achieve, and shows we can make transparent circuits with conventional photolithography techniques, the basic patterning methods used to create electronics all over the world."

Collaborators on the work at OSU include Wager; Doug Keszler, professor and head of the OSU Department of Chemistry; Janet Tate, a professor of physics; and Rick Presley, who as a master's candidate in electrical engineering at OSU has been at the cutting edge of a new electronics industry.

Transparent electronics, scientists say, may hold the key to new industries, employment opportunities, and new, more effective or less costly consumer products. Uses could range from transparent displays in the windshield of an automobile to cell phones, televisions, copiers, "smart" glass or game and toy applications. More efficient solar cells or better liquid crystal displays are possible.

Recently, OSU announced the creation of a transparent transistor based on zinc-tin-oxide. The new transparent integrated circuit is made from indium gallium oxide. Both of these compounds, which are amorphous heavy-metal cation multi-component oxides, share some virtues - they have high electron mobility, chemical stability, physical durability and ease of manufacture at low temperatures.

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