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MCU touts low-voltage, small-sized design

Posted: 27 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microcontroller? MCU market? SoC? flash memory?

Silicon Laboratories Inc. has entered the MCU market by combining advanced converter-integration technology with cutting-edge, transistor-level power-management technology, yielding an IC that operates at 0.9V and with sleep-mode current of 50nA (potato and lemon-juice batteries welcome!). The company is targeting portable, remote, and unattended product applications, at a price point of $2, and with first devices in the family shipping now

The announcement comes in the wake of a similar announcement in terms of converter integration at ISSCC, where TI and MIT announced their progress on that front, though no product announcement dates were made.

The C8051F9xx family of processor SoC devices can operate from a single-cell battery, via its internal boost converter. The vendor maintains that this MCU (MCU) is the lowest operating-voltage one available on the market, with topology, geometry, architecture and features which are optimized and coordinated to use miniscule power at ultralow voltage, without sacrificing performance or functionality.

Time from sleep-mode wake-up to initiating an A/D conversion, using the internal 10bit, 300KSps converter, is 2?s, in part due to the fast wake-up of its voltage reference. The 8051-compatible 8bit MCU operates at 25MIPS and has an active-mode current drain as low as 170?A/MHz.

Internal memory includes 32- or 64Kbytes of flash memory and 4Kbytes of RAM, all squeezed into a package as small as 4mm x 4mm. Since many of the target applications require multiple analog inputs, the single-ended ADC supports up to 23 channels. To minimize EMI issues, the 24.5MHz oscillator can be operated in a spread-spectrum mode. There are four general-purpose timers, with 16bit count, as well as a programmable counter/timer array with three capture modes, and a watchdog timer. I/O also includes SMBus, I?C, Enhanced UART, and two SPI interfaces. To facilitate touch-sense inputs, the device has two voltage comparators which work in conjunction with the analog inputs. Other internal features are a 6bit programmable current reference and a temperature sensor.

Development tools include a kit with an integrated development environment, target board, cables and power supply. The GUI-based system also includes a power-estimation tool which provides insight into battery-discharge characteristics vs. MCU operation, and an editable spreadsheet which allows designers t optimize power and performance tradeoffs. In addition, a Toolstick daughter card and base adapter is available for basic evaluation.

The MCU, operates from 0.9V to 1.8V, or 1.8V to 3.6V over the -40C to 85C temperature range. There are a variety of package options, including 24/32-lead QFN and LQFP.

The first members of the C8051F9xx are available now, with prices starting at $1.99 (10,000 pieces). The Development kit is $99 and the Toolstick daughter card is $17.90.

Silicon Labs is one of the exhibitors in the upcoming IIC-China 2008.

- Bill Schweber
Planet Analog

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