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ULP apps close in on portables in power chase

Posted: 03 Aug 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ULP portable applications? power management? DC/DC converters?

ULP applicationsThe worldwide market for DC/DC converters and regulators will grow from 12.3 billion units in 2006 to 18.6 billion units in 2011, at a CAGR of 8.6 percent per year, according to Darnell Group Inc.'s latest analysis report, "DC/DC Converter Modules and ICs". Low-dropout regulators (LDOs) will remain the largest converter/regulator IC segment throughout the next five years, but their share of the market will slip as switching regulators grow faster. LDOs are more common with applications featuring less than or equal to 1A output. Charge pumps, found almost exclusively in the lower-amperage categories, are the smallest and slowest-growing segment of the converter/regulator IC market.

Converter/regulator IC sales by regulation technology

LDOs dip as switching regulators rise. (Click to view full image)

The largest application segments for power management ICs today are in established products such as MP3 players, cellphones, laptops and other portable gear. Over the next five years though, growth will be driven by a set of emerging ultralow power (ULP) wireless applications. In contrast with today's portable apps, ULP devices tend to be "stationary" products, using sensor and control nodes in wireless mesh networks, for example.

Mesh network applications include medical sensors and monitors and home or building automation systems. RFID tags are an example of an application that is both ULP and portable. Down the road, so-called smart dust or wireless motes are expected to experience significant growth.

Converter/regulator IC sales by output current

Low-current apps drive converter/regulator ICs. (Click to view full image)

Advanced ULP wireless systems will incorporate various combinations of thin-film batteries, MEMS, wireless sensors, low-power MCUs and other advanced, power-efficient components, some of which are still in early development. Energy harvesting, energy storage and power management, including large numbers of DC/DC converter/regulator ICs, remain key power management devices for next-generation ULP systems.

- Jeff Shepard
President, Darnell Group Inc.

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