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Silicon Labs boast new ultra-low-power mixed signal MCUs

Posted: 05 Oct 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microcontroller? Cortex M3 processor? direct memory access? Internet of Things?

Silicon Laboratories Inc. has introduced a low power microcontroller (MCU) family based on the ARM Cortex M3 processor as well as a set of "power-aware" development tools.

The Precision32 SiM3L1xx MCUs and development environment utilise mixed-signal innovations to aid developers in reducing power consumption to 175?A/MHz in active mode and less than 250 nA in sleep mode with the real-time clock (RTC) enabled at 3.6 V. The new ultra-low-power mixed-signal MCUs are ideal for smart metering, utility monitoring, home automation, wireless security, asset tracking, personal medical devices and other power-sensitive applications to enable the Internet of Things (IoT).

The company has touted its SiM3L1xx family as the industry's most power-efficient line of 32bit MCUs. The new line is designed to achieve ground-breaking ultra-low-power operation based on an ARM Cortex-M3 processor operating at up to 50MHz. The new Precision32 mixed-signal MCUs include power-saving peripheral and architectural innovations that can reduce current consumption below that of many 8bit MCUs, enabling developers to use higher performance 32bit cores in their low-power embedded designs without the trade-off of reduced battery life.

Active mode power reduction is achieved through a number of key innovations. For example, dynamic voltage scaling adjusts the internal device voltage in response to changing conditions. An integrated, high-efficiency dc-dc buck converter reduces active mode power by 40 per cent compared to competing 32bit MCUs. Dedicated peripherals such as a data transfer manager, AES encryption block and run-time encoder accelerate the processing of RF protocol for wireless applications without CPU intervention, greatly reducing system power.

Enhanced direct memory access (DMA) can reduce protocol-related power by 90 per cent, and RAM and register state retention enables a fast 4?s wake-up time. The MCU family also features a patented LCD controller with a charge redistribution architecture that reduces the display's power consumption by nearly 40 per cent without compromising performance.

The SiM3L1xx and supporting development tools were designed with the overall system power budget in mind. To minimise system-level power, the SiM3L1xx MCUs feature patented voltage conversion technology, as well as advanced peripherals that reduce the power consumed by other ICs in the system. For example, the high-efficiency dc-dc converter reduces the operating current of the entire system. Configuring the output voltage to the lowest acceptable setting of the other IC components connected to the MCU minimises overall power consumption. This technique is especially useful in battery-powered applications such as smart meters where this innovation can extend the battery's lifetime to 20 years.

Production quantities of Silicon Labs' SiM3L1xx MCUs are available now in QFN and TQFP packages as small as 5.5 mm x 5.5 mm with 32 to 256 kB flash sizes. Product pricing for the SiM3L1xx MCUs in 10,000-unit quantities begins at $2.55. Comprehensive unified development kits include the SiM3L1XX-B-DK kit (without LCD) and the SiM3L1XXLCD-B-DK LCD kit, each priced at $99.00.

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