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Performance Enhancement For Residential Light Fixtures

September 10, 2008 11:51 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

In a recent beer commercial, a woman asks for a low-calorie beer, and the host proceeds to spill out half the bottle, and hand it to her. In similar fashion the EPA believes that, through the use of add-ons, one can improve the innate efficiency of legacy technologies. In reference to their new Energy Star “technical amendment,” the EPA’s Lightning Program Manager, Alex Baker, told me, “With this approach, the Program currently has nearly 12,000 qualified fixtures from more than 120 manufacturing Partners…even incandescent technologies (the latter only allowed when used with a motion sensor to minimize operating time)” (emphasis mine).

Biomechanical Energy Harvester Converts Human Motion Into Electricity

September 4, 2008 7:22 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

The inherent weakness of any portable device is its isolation from a constant power source, such as electricity. Thus, battery technology has evolved alongside the iPod and laptop computer. But batteries themselves are inefficient, because they either deplete themselves, or in the case of rechargeables, require electricity supplied from a power grid. But what if you could harness the energy produced by the natural motion of the human body? Bionic Power is endeavoring to accomplish that with its “Biomechanical Energy Harvester.”

SMH: Direct RF Sampling with High Performance ADC

August 29, 2008 10:11 am | by Philip Pratt, Texas Instruments | Articles | Comments

Previously analog-to-digital converters (ADC) at high input frequencies were limited in usefulness due to distortion and noise performance. Today, however, ADCs can provide nearly 9.5 bits of effective number of bits (ENOB) at radio frequencies (RF) of 1 GHz with signal bandwidths greater than 200MHz. Such performance at high frequencies eliminates a mixer stage, simplifying receiver design to improve overall system performance.

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Embedded Systems: Sniff ZigBee Packets

August 29, 2008 9:14 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

When engineers tackle a project that uses ZigBee communications they may get a surprise. Unlike point-to-point communications, ZigBee involves a network that can establish nodes, repeaters and complex mesh topologies. The proper test tools--often called "sniffers"--help engineers diagnose ZigBee-network problems that could otherwise turn into nightmares.

Design Talk: The Shrinking Design Cycle

August 27, 2008 9:39 am | Articles | Comments

The recent cries over shoddy manufacturing performance have put electronic product designers in a tough spot – and frankly, left them baffled. Time after time, their design concepts that had the makings of a sure bet evolved into a product with deficiencies reported from thousands of customers – leaving many unanswered questions.

Brainstorm: Designing New Technology

August 26, 2008 10:01 am | Articles | Comments

What are the most important factors to consider when developing a new product?

The Mathworks Kicks Off EcoCAR Competition

August 25, 2008 9:19 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

On August 14th, 2008, The Mathworks held the kick-off to “EcoCAR,” a collegiate advanced technology vehicle competition (ATVC). EcoCAR’s subtitle (“The NeXt Challenge”) says it all- this is the spiritual successor to “Challenge X,” a similarly-themed ATVC contest that, last year, ended with Mississippi State University taking home the gold. In speaking with personnel from the DOE, The Mathworks, and GM (all event sponsors), I concluded that the biggest obstacle to ATV’s greater viability is a lack of young, qualified engineers.

Industry Focus: Taking Advantage of Power Conditioning

August 20, 2008 10:49 am | Articles | Comments

Power has the essential role in the operation of a factory since no machinery can run without it, but power isn’t a guarantee. Companies performing industrial automation lose up to millions of dollars and hours of production time annually due to power anomalies. There are two types of power anomalies: natural phenomena which are harder to control and internal anomalies which are easier to control.

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“Green” Project Aspires to Reduce IT's Carbon Footprint

August 7, 2008 11:42 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

According to Doug Ramsey of UC San Diego, “The information technology industry consumes as much energy and has roughly the same ‘carbon footprint’ as the airline industry.” This is because of the unparalleled growth in high-speed electronic equipment, and the corresponding electricity requirements. Not only is energy necessary for the systems themselves, but as IT equipment blossoms, so does their cooling requirements.  It’s an implacable scenario that currently plagues the IT industry. Similar to hipster environmentalist celebrities who globe-trot on private jets, how do you conduct scientific research into efficiency issues when your investigative process gobbles up energy?

Semiconductor Highlight: Designing with CPLDs

August 6, 2008 11:55 am | by Gordon Hands, Lattice Semiconductor | Articles | Comments

Many designs require a small amount of high-speed, instant-on programmable logic. These designs drive the thriving market for Complex Programmable Logic Devices (CPLDs). This article examines the definition of CPLDs, their applications, design methodologies and which factors to consider when selecting a CPLD.

Developing Comprehensive, Cost-Effective Hardware and Software Solutions for the Cardiac Device Market

August 6, 2008 10:46 am | by Jose Villasenor Fernandez, M.D., Global Medical Applications Specialist, Freescale Semiconductor and David Niewolny, Medical Product Marketing Manager, Freescale Semiconductor | Articles | Comments

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally. An estimated 17.5 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2005, representing 30 percent of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 7.6 million were due to heart attacks, and 5.7 million were due to stroke. By 2015, an estimated 20 million people will die from cardiovascular disease every year, primarily from heart attacks and strokes. Many of these deaths may occur with no previous symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

Embedded Systems: The 16-to-32-Bit Migration Gets Smoother(2)

August 4, 2008 12:30 pm | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

At one time, the gulf between 16- and 32-bit processors seemed wide and deep, so engineers had a difficult time making the transition from one realm to the other. Many processor manufacturers have helped eliminate that gulf and many development boards and tools simplify the migration between those realms.

Energizer Stays One Step Ahead by Catering to Diminutive Device Trend

July 31, 2008 9:55 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

“Quad A” may soon become part of the common vernacular. Although the AAAA battery (or Quad A) has been commercially available since 1989, it’s mostly been a niche product, difficult to find on shelves. But with consumer electronics moving towards smaller, more lightweight devices, with decreasing power requirements, the battery industry is adapting. Quad A has long been an internal industry standard for 9 V batteries (6 Quad A’s linked together, each generating 1.5 V, equals 9 V), but it could soon displace the AAA as the battery of choice for portable electronics.

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Semiconductor Highlight: Using A Current Monitor

July 28, 2008 10:01 am | by Peter Abiodun A. Bode, Senior Applications Engineer, Zetex Semiconductors | Articles | Comments

Traditionally, precision full wave rectifiers1 used in a range of instrumentation applications have employed between 7 and 9 discrete circuit components.  These are typically 2 op-amps, 2 diodes and 3 to 5 resistors.  This article will show that an alternative approach, using a standard current monitor IC, reduces the component count to just five and greatly simplifies circuit configuration and produces a more elegant overall solution.

Industry Focus: Defining Distributor Design

July 28, 2008 9:10 am | by Chris Keuling, Associate Editor | Articles | Comments

The electronics distributor plays an important role in the electronic components industry, selling engineers the components and subsystems they need to use in their designs. A growing number of distributors also provide value-added services such as design support to their customers. With the combined pressure of the shrinking design cycle and expanded technology availability, it’s important for engineers to be able to talk to someone who can help them throughout the design process. We recently cold-called a number of major distributors without identifying ourselves as press and simply asked what design services they perform.

Design Talk: Technology Solutions

July 28, 2008 6:30 am | Articles | Comments

Failures of semiconductor ICs are typically due to overvoltage or overcurrent for a given junction temperature. This overvoltage can be caused by an external factor or an uncontrolled switching inductance. The overcurrent failure can be caused by excess junction temperature due to excessive power losses and a poor thermal path or an abnormal load current. It is typical for a failure report to state Electrical Over Stress(EOS).

EPA Creates Bedlam With Amendment for Residential Light Fixtures

July 22, 2008 5:17 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Ayn Rand, one of capitalism’s greatest proponents, once said, “I am an innovator. This is a term of distinction, a term of honor, rather than something to hide or apologize for. Anyone who has new or valuable ideas to offer stands outside the intellectual status quo.” Governmental interference in private enterprise is always disastrous. What’s worse is when innovation is stifled by bureaucratic finagling and pc notions of impartiality (or as some would say, preventing a “competitive disadvantage”). You can’t give a chimp a skateboard and call him Tony Hawk.

Report Suggests Plug-in Hybrids Threaten to Strain Freshwater Resources

July 9, 2008 10:47 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Advanced technology vehicles are the wave of the future, but they aren’t the elegant solutions advocates posit them as. The conservation of one resource inevitably comes at the expense of another resource. A report by Carey W. King and Michael E. Webber of the University of Texas suggests that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) will place a strain on the nation’s freshwater resources. The research compares miles driven with a conventional internal combustion engine vs. a PHEV.

Brainstorm: Next Generation Displays

July 8, 2008 5:14 am | Articles | Comments

What technology trends do you feel will dominate the development of next-generation displays?

New Study Calls for World-Wide Reduction in Energy Consumption

July 3, 2008 8:42 am | by Jason Lomberg | Blogs | Comments

A Swiss Academic Study, “The 2000 Watt Society,” is gaining a lot of traction in the environmental movement.  First developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the latest treatise ("Smarter Living") was coordinated by Novatlantis, and is an urgent call to action.  In short, it proposes an overall reduction in energy consumption to the world-wide average of 2,000 watts per capita by the year 2050.  Naturally, the US bears the brunt of the scorn.

SMH: Wringing the Power Consumption Out of That FPGA

July 2, 2008 11:24 am | Articles | Comments

Computationally intensive DSP functions often require hardware acceleration. Increasingly, designers are implementing their DSP algorithms in FPGAs because they offer better performance than DSP processors. Benchmarks show that FPGAs execute turbocoding, GPS correlation, H264 and other DSP functions much more quickly than DSPs.

Industry Focus- Wireless USB's Easy Data Transfer in Consumer Electronics

July 2, 2008 6:51 am | Articles | Comments

The growing multimedia capabilities of consumer electronics are placing new demands on bulk data transfer between devices. Now WiMedia-standard Ultra Wideband (UWB) is entering the mainstream in laptops and computer peripherals, so consumers can easily transfer files without complex network configuration, and without cables.

Embedded Systems: ESC Update

July 1, 2008 12:50 pm | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

If you have not recently--or ever--attended the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, you owe it to yourself and your company to go. This conference and its many exhibits give you opportunities to talk with colleagues and technical experts. Unlike some shows, vendors send their engineering gurus to ESC, so when you stop at an exhibit you can talk about hardware and software with fellow engineers who speak your languages. You will get a taste of some of the products introduced at ESC in this column. Our online column includes information about more new products announced at the show.

Innovative Technology to Maximize Output of Solar Panels

July 1, 2008 6:14 am | by Jason Lomberg | Blogs | Comments

In 1839, French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the “photovoltaic” effect, or the natural phenomenon which allows the conversion of solar into electrical energy. Over the next 150 years, this inexorably led to solar-powered satellites, solar cars, and solar-panel technology for domestic use. Among their many strengths, financial savings (after the initial investment), environmental conservation, and minimal upkeep, solar panels always suffered weaknesses inherent in a technology that relies on a giant ball of ionized gas 150 million kilometers away.

Nextreme Strives to Increase Efficiency of Heat-to-Power Conversion

June 30, 2008 10:47 am | Blogs | Comments

With soaring energy costs, all sectors are feeling the crunch, including the thermoelectrics industry. But Nextreme Thermal Solutions has a plan to stem the tide. One potential solution is to convert a system’s thermal energy byproduct into a functional resource. Using a grant from the North Carolina Green Business Fund, Nextreme plans to optimize their thin-film growth process with the goal of doubling the power output of a single device from 250mW to 500mW.

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