X-FAB & efabless Co-Sponsor a Design Challenge to Create Ultra-Low Power Voltage Reference

In order to drive further ingenuity in IC development, X-FAB Silicon Foundries and efabless corporation have announced the launch of an open mixed-signal design challenge. The objective of this challenge is to give designers across the globe, of all levels of experience, the opportunity to deliver a completed design IP for an ultra-low power voltage reference. The IP will be developed in X-FAB’s 350nm mixed-signal process with designers being granted access to the required models, design files and technical documentation. The 3 winners will each receive an attractive monetary reward and their IP will subsequently be made available to the X-FAB customer base through both the company’s IP Portal as well as via efabless’ try-before-buy online marketplace. All participants in the design challenge will fully retain their IP ownership.


The efabless/X-FAB open mixed-signal design challenge is the first of its kind in the semiconductor industry, as it is fundamentally outcome based with reference to target specifications. It will simultaneously focus on both encouraging greater design creativity and also maximizing execution quality in line with the performance requirements that have been set. Entrants for the design challenge will be accepted up to 20th February 2017. To get more information and to sign up go to


X-FAB’s 350nm mixed-signal process (XH035) on which the designs will be implemented is highly optimized for telecom, industrial and automotive applications. It provides strong signal integrity characteristics, as well as having industry-leading high-voltage capabilities. The world class noise behavior of its p-mos and n-mos transistors makes this process highly suitable for circuits requiring a high signal-to-noise ratio. The efabless design environment provides all entrants with the tools needed to design, verify and deliver the IP they envisaged.


“X-FAB continues to seek novel and imaginative ways by which to strengthen the IP offering available to our customers,” states Ulrich Bretthauer, Manager of Industrial & Medical Solutions at X-FAB. “efabless’ unique crowdsourcing approach to semiconductor development, and the highly-engaged engineering community it has built up around this, clearly complement our existing portfolio of valued IP partners. This means that customers have access to on-demand IP that is fully optimized to meet their particular needs. The cooperation of our two companies on this design challenge will be an effective means by which to highlight the pioneering foundry and design services we respectively specialize in.”


“The semiconductor industry continues to evolve, with new sectors like IoT, eHealth, home automation and wearable technology all showing huge potential. The growing diversity of development projects means that there will be many places where IP on demand is destined to be a critical factor,” adds Mohamed Kassem, co-founder and CTO of efabless. “The efabless concept is to bring the dynamics of crowdsourcing to the design and delivery of semiconductor IP. We have created a platform upon which members of our community can sell or license the IP they’ve created to customers worldwide, resulting in a vibrant, highly responsive marketplace. We are excited by the prospect of working together with X-FAB. The jointly announced design challenge enables further refinement to our business model as well as highlighting its inherent benefits,” he continues. “It is open to all engineers – from students right through to seasoned industry veterans – thus staying true to efabless’ philosophy of democratizing the design process.”


Common mode chokes featuring nanaocrystaline cores help to streamline electronic designs

With increasing power densities needing to be supported in modern electronics hardware, ensuring adequate EMI suppression is of greater importance than ever. As well as being fully operationally effective, common mode chokes must also exhibit compact form factors in order to address increasingly acute space constraints. Solid State Supplies has shown itself to be ahead of the game here, offering engineers new chokes from Pulse Electronics with markedly reduced volumetric dimensions.


Measuring just 32.0mm x 12.6mm x 10.0mm and 42mm x 27mm x 46mm respectively, the PH9455xNL and PA441xNL series can both deliver high levels of performance while being significantly smaller than competing devices on the market. This capability stems from the use of nanocrystalline cores, which results in a quadrupling of the impedance over conventional ferrite core chokes of the same dimensions and winding arrangements. Engineers are thus given plenty of scope for scaling down to lower profile, smaller footprint components without any compromises needing to be made.


The PA441xNL series’ inductance range covers 14mH (at 8A) to 35mH (at 5A), while the PH9455xNL series has an inductance range that spans 1.00mH (at 22.0A) to 82.0mH (at 3.0A). Both series exhibit a 1500Vrms dielectric strength. The superior common mode noise rejection of these components means they are highly optimised for EMI filtering tasks in AC/DC, DC/DC and DC/AC power sources where limited available space is available, as well as in solar inverters and motor drives. They also offer industry-leading temperature stability.


For more information visit:


High-performance pressure-tolerant batteries for deep-dive underwater vehicles move a step closer

Steatite has announced the successful completion of the first phase of a 24-month project to develop a pressure-tolerant lithium sulphur (Li-S) battery pack that can improve the endurance and speed of ‘deep-dive’ autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Having demonstrated that Li-S cells can meet the demanding challenge of operating at depths up to 6000m, the project can now move on to the battery development phase involving continued development of Steatite’s pressure-tolerant multi-chemistry Battery Management System (BMS).


The MAS (Marine Autonomous Systems) Consortium is a group of UK companies and academic partners led by Steatite and funded by Innovate UK and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The project, which is due for completion in October 2017, aims to exploit the potential of Li-S cell technology to surpass conventional lithium-ion (Li-ion) solutions, and will enhance the capabilities of the scientific and defence vehicles used in applications across the marine and maritime community, including subsea structures, ROVs, profilers, buoys and submersible systems.


AUVs are energy-limited, which constrains their operational envelope meaning that speeds are usually low (2-4 knots) and endurance can be limited. By significantly increasing the energy available within the vehicle, this operational envelope could be expanded, thereby raising both speed and range. At the same time, as vehicles go deeper, the pressure vessels become excessively heavy and expensive and AUVs with internal batteries become limited by the fact that these batteries have to be recharged. The Consortium aims to produce a pressure-tolerant battery pack that delivers increased energy storage and that can be hot swapped to improve operational utilisation.


The first phase of the project was completed at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton and involved repeatedly testing Li-S cells at pressures and temperatures equivalent to undersea depths of 6,000m. The results of the testing have demonstrated that the Li-S cells now deliver (almost) the same performance as at ambient conditions and that the effective Neutral Buoyancy Energy Density (NBED) is nearly double that of the Li-ion reference cells. Several cells have been used to perform life tests, and have now reached over 60 cycles for slow discharge, and 80 cycles of faster discharges.




Solid State Oxygen Sensors Simultaneously Address Cost, Power, Longevity & Ecological Demands

Recognised as a leading supplier of advanced gas and fluid sensor technology, SST Sensing Ltd. offers a comprehensive array of oxygen measurement devices. Complementing the company’s high performance Zirconia product offering, the LuminOx family uses proprietary solid state technology to deliver sensors with the cost effectiveness found in commonly-used electrochemical oxygen sensors, but with a series of key additional benefits.

The optically-based, factory-calibrated LuminOx sensors rely on fluorescence quenching by Oxygen. Here, pulsed light is directed onto an oxygen-sensitive fluorescent dye causing it to fluoresce.   The rate at which this fluorescence decays is inversely proportional to the amount of oxygen present in the vicinity. Because the phenomenon does not deplete the fluorescent dye, LuminOx devices can be deployed for far more prolonged periods than are possible using conventional oxygen sensors in this price bracket (which are normally based on electrochemical measurement mechanisms which rely on an electrolyte which is “consumed” over time). They can remain in service of well over 5 years. Furthermore, LuminOx sensors are completely free from lead, liquid electrolytes and other hazardous materials that are present in electrochemical sensing solutions – which have significant environmental concerns associated with them.

LuminOx devices are suitable for measuring oxygen in terms of either partial pressure (ppO2) or oxygen concentration (vol. %). LuminOx is fully compensated for temperature and barometric pressure. Running from a standard 5V supply, these sensors draw a current of <6mA when acquiring sampling data at a rate of 1sample/s. Standard sensors operate from 0-25% vol. O2 and a high degree of accuracy is maintained across this range (with better than 2% full scale achieved). They support a working temperature range spanning from -30°C to +60°C, making them considerably more robust than competing devices. Providing a simple 3.3V TTL output across an RS232 serial interface, they can be connected directly to the system microcontroller with no need for additional signal conditioning electronics. The compact form factor of these sensors means that they can easily be used to replace older generation sensor devices while keeping the same housing format.


SEGGER presents new embOS port for Renesas’ automotive RH850 microcontrollers

 SEGGER presents a new embOS port for the Rnesas Electronics’ automotive RH850 microcontroller (MCU) Family. The industry-leading efficiency of embOS complements the high-performance and very low power consumption characteristics that are inherent within RH850 MCUs. The embOS port comes with board support packages for all popular Renesas RH850 MCUs plus their related evaluation boards. These packages run direct out of-the-box without the need for additional configuration or setup. Included in the support items is a project for the IAR EWRH850 workbench.


The embOS for RH850 offering includes the highly-valued embOS manual, which can not only be used as a reference for the embOS API but, in addition, comprehensively describes all the RTOS basics for engineers are not yet familiar with an embedded RTOS. Furthermore, embOS is fully MISRA-C:2012 compliant, thus proving the superior quality of the embOS source code and facilitating its utilization in demanding automotive environments.


“With the introduction of embOS for our RH850 Family, SEGGER shows their expertise in creating highly-efficient software. It enables our customers to benefit from low memory footprints, thus leaving more room for the actual application. It also delivers highly predictable performance, which enables real-time applications”, says Hans-Michael Loch, Senior Manager for Support in the Automotive Business Group at Renesas Electronics Europe.


”Renesas RH850 is a very flexible and scalable automotive-optimized MCU solution. With similar attributes and equally high degrees of operational performance, it is clear that embOS and RH850 are very well matched together.” adds Til Stork Product Manager embOS at SEGGER.


More information on SEGGER’s embOS priority-controlled multi-tasking platform is available at:


Sensor-to-Cloud Solution for Industrial-Grade IoT Deployments Utilising Mobile Networks

Accelerating the development of IoT applications, Solid State Supplies Ltd now offers the mangOH™ Green product from Sierra Wireless. Backed by the support of the knowledgeable and experienced technical team at Solid State Supplies’ disposal, this highly intuitive open hardware platform facilitates cellular-enabled IoT designs, allowing rapid progress from concept and prototyping phases through to full scale production.

Highly suited for developing solutions to be deployed in remote locations, for industrial, environmental and agricultural monitoring purposes, as well as various other forms of data logging and M2M communication, the mangOH Green platform incorporates the Sierra Wireless AirPrime® WP8548 cellular modem for reliable wireless connectivity. The modem’s processing capabilities, which are powered by an ARM® CortexA5 application processor, deliver a combination of elevated performance and low power operation. Each platform has three expansion slots that enable the attachment of further wireless and wireline connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Thread and Ethernet cards. The mangOH platform provides a complete IoT gateway that can be scaled to fit the exact requirements of any given application. A selection of sensors, such as an accelerometer and a gyroscope, are included.



Melexis Announces Pioneering Use of MEMS in Mid-Range Pressure Sensing Applications


Melexis continues to bring highly differentiated products to market through superior innovation, with the introduction of its MLX90819 sensor IC – which is targeted at measuring mid pressure (10-50bar) levels. Applying its proprietary micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) technology to an area that had not been previously adequately served by a fully integrated sensor solution means that major system design benefits can now be derived.


Available as a bare die, the MLX90819 runs off a standard 5V supply. It can be employed to accurately determine fluid pressure levels in wide variety of automotive and industrial focused applications. These include the monitoring of engine oil, transmission oil, engine coolant, vehicle fuel lines, air conditioning refrigerant and truck air brake pressures, just to mention a few. The IC delivers a relative pressure value. It has a 1ms response time, plus ±2.5% over life accuracy and ±0.2% linearity across its entire operational pressure range. 


By using a more advanced process technology, the MLX90819 is unique in being able to leverage a microcontroller based architecture. This allows a much higher degree of sophistication to be incorporated onto the semiconductor die – with all digital processing, data conversion, temperature offset, gain compensation and filtering tasks being taken care of directly. A 16-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC), 12-bit digital-to-analog (DAC) and high performance 16-bit processor core are embedded directly into each sensor IC. The cost and complexity implications of discrete MEMS solutions, as well as the space utilization and sealing wear-and-tear issues that blight traditional non-MEMS solutions, can thereby be avoided. The IC can deliver either an analog signal or a single edge nibble transmission (SENT) output for applications requiring a digital output.


This robust IC is highly suited to both heavy duty industrial and automotive deployment, with full AECQ100 compliance and a specified temperature range of -40°C to 150°C. An automotive over-voltage protection mechanism is included in order to ensure ongoing reliability. An array of diagnostic features further support its long term operational integrity. These include analog output clamping level and broken track detection, plus numerous distinctive diagnostic messages passed via the SENT protocol (such as internal temperature or pressure errors, external over-voltage/under-voltage conditions, etc.) The MLX90819 sensor ICs will be shipped in a die-on-foil format.


Rugged personal tracking system incorporates array of security-critical features

Drawing on its expertise in producing advanced, resilient engineering solutions to deal with exacting application demands, Steatite now introduces a comprehensive, high integrity tracking system. It presents the national security, border control and law enforcement sectors with an ultra-reliable, all-encompassing, end-to-end solution that is simple to implement and can be tailored to fit their specific operational requirements. What essentially differentiates it from alternative solutions is that it has been designed from the initial concept phase with the goal of providing irrefutable forensic evidence – through its sophisticated diagnostic resources, precision positioning and secure operational capabilities.


The worn unit comprises a secure GPS tag with a robust ankle strap. A wide range of sensors are incorporated, which constantly acquire numerous forms of data concerning the wearer’s locality and the external environment, as well as other key parameters such as battery status, etc. Extremely sensitive, adjustable tamper alert mechanisms have been integrated, which are triggered if any attempt is made to break into the case or to cut the strap.


The unit connects securely to a configurable web portal, which can be referred to in real time. This relies on geolocation data from multiple satellites and base stations, as well as access to state-of-the-art mapping sources, to determine the tag wearer’s exact position with very low possibility of error. Geofence notifications can be utilised to prevent the tagged subject from leaving (or entering) predetermined areas. Data being transferred between the tag and the web portal is encrypted to safeguard against the risk of security breaches. Also data segregation means that confidentially is always maintained, as not all the information is held in one place and will only be brought together if required for judicial purposes. The graphic user interface (GUI) has been developed to make it as operator-friendly as possible. Data recording and reporting rates can be set to suit specific requirements, with multiple monitoring modes available. Steatite can work directly with the customer to ensure the effectiveness of operational processes and thereby mitigate the chances of false alerts occurring (something that can prove a major problem with other solutions).


Through its elevated power efficiency, the tag unit has a long battery life (running for up to three days between charges). Furthermore, it has a rapid charge period (taking just one hour to fully replenish its reserves). Untethered charging means that it does not have to be connected directly to the mains (thus making it more convenient for the wearer). Its sturdy construction can cope with heavy shocks, vibrations and other forms of mechanical stress, as well as wide temperature fluctuations. As the casing is waterproof, this unit is not affected by exposure to water (from heavy rainfall, showering and even swimming).


“This personal tracking system showcases Steatite’s adept engineering, plus our in-depth knowledge of cloud computing technology and our understanding of the importance of data protection in relation to this. Every element, from the tag unit’s electronic hardware, firmware and mechanical structure, right through to its supporting software ecosystem, has been developed in such a way that it is fundamentally able to stand up to intense legal scrutiny, thereby providing the highest degree of evidential assurance,” states Chris Oxlade-Arnott, General Manager at Steatite EMS.


Role of HV-IPD Technology in Boosting Efficiency of Modern Household Appliances for a More Energy Aware Society

Where as in the past it was aspects like the external aesthetics or the retail cost that would influence purchasing decisions when it came to household appliances (such as refrigerators, dish washers, washing machines, etc.), now it is the energy rating that often proves to be the overriding priority. Thanks to the introduction of the EU Energy Label program, consumers have become more aware of the reduced running costs that installing more energy efficient appliances, with variable speed operation, will bring – thereby allowing them to curb their utility bills. In addition, several other plus points are making such units more appealing than outdated fixed-speed alternatives – in particular improved reliability (with extended functional lifespans being derived, which equate to longer periods of time before these appliances need replacement) plus lower noise being experienced while they are running.

The implementation of brush-less DC (BLDC) motor technology has been instrumental in bringing appliances to market that are able to gain elevated energy ratings, as well as enabling the other benefits outlined, while also ensuring that an acceptable price tag is possible. The next generation of appliances will rely increasingly on the incorporation of permanent magnet synchronous motors (PMSMs) to enhance operational performance still further. Compact high voltage intelligent power devices (HV-IPDs) are now emerging. Incorporating numerous high voltage MOSFET dies, these sophisticated devices are showing themselves to be a very effective foundation on which to build PMSM control systems. Not only do they deliver the efficiency and reliability characteristics now being demanded by today’s better informed consumers, but also possess the inherent degree of design flexibility that will help OEMs’ engineers to expedite the implementation process.

To find out more about Toshiba’s industry-leading HV-IPD technology you can download a white paper on the subject by visiting:



SST Introduces Screw-Fit Oxygen Sensor to Further Enhance User Convenience

SST Sensing Ltd., the leading supplier of advanced gas and fluid sensing technology, continues to expand its portfolio of high accuracy oxygen sensor devices. The Zirconia Screw Fit Housing option provides engineers with the basis for a simple to implement solution, where only the sensor head itself is exposed to the sample gas environment. All of the supporting electronics can thus be kept away from sources of potential harm and long term reliable operation ensured.

 Supplied in an M18 x 1.5mm mounting threaded housing, with a robust stainless steel construction, the device can cope with extreme temperature levels (from -100°C up to 250°C). This makes it highly suitable for combustion control within industrial coal/oil/gas/biomass boilers, continuous emission monitoring systems and accelerated composting applications. Supporting an oxygen pressure range of 2mbar to 3bar, it has a 5mbar accuracy and maintains strong linearity across its entire temperature range. The sensor has a rapid response time (<4secs) and covers oxygen concentrations of 0.1% to 25%.

 To accompany this sensor, SST offers the OXY-LC high performance interface board, which incorporates all the processing electronics necessary to address the application’s specific requirements, as well as powering the sensor itself.

Based on zirconium dioxide (ZrO2), SST’s oxygen sensors attain industry-leading performance specifications. By combining Nernst Effect and oxygen ion pump sensing mechanisms, the need for a sealed reference gas and frequent calibration is eliminated – thereby resulting in more compact, easy to install systems with prolonged trouble-free lifespans that are not subject to sensor depletion.


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