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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.

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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.

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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.

Embedded Systems: Two Routes Lead to Software Defined Radio

June 30, 2008 6:35 am | Articles | Comments

A bit of C code that runs on a microprocessor does not create a software-defined radio (SDR). Most SDRs use a traditional signal-sampling technique, followed by much software massaging of data. But semiconductor companies can now put more of the analog signal-handling elements on a chip. This column provides an update on both techniques.

Brainstorm: Environmental Design

June 27, 2008 7:54 am | Articles | Comments

What is the balance, for the engineer, between an environmentally efficient vehicle in operation, and the other aspects of manufacturing, material, and their environmental cost and impact?

Chip Uses Novel Sleep Mode to Set Low-Power Record

June 24, 2008 4:23 am | Product Releases | Comments

A low-power microchip developed at the University of Michigan uses 30,000 times less power in sleep mode and 10 times less in active mode than comparable chips now on the market.The Phoenix Processor, which sets a low-power record, is intended for use in cutting-edge sensor-based devices such as medical implants, environment monitors or surveillance equipment. The chip consumes just 30 picowatts during sleep mode.

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Design Talk: Elegant Design

June 16, 2008 5:04 am | Articles | Comments

Design is a balance struck between style, functionality, technology, and construction (often as a compromise). But what makes a design “elegant”? The iPod is inarguably an elegant design, but then again so is the standard wooden mousetrap. This month we’re running some articles on design and comments on “elegant” design. Let us know if you agree with the authors or add comments of your own at www.ecnmag.com/designtalk-elegant-design.aspx

Design Talk: Technology Applied

June 13, 2008 5:13 am | Articles | Comments

One issue facing design engineers is echnology selection. Choosing a device today is more than just an exercise in packaging and pin out, there are often multiple technologies and/or methodologies to choose from. Here is a collection of viewpoints from a group of engineers on how they select tech.

Researchers demonstrate 'avalanche effect' in solar cells

June 12, 2008 10:55 am | Blogs | Comments

Researchers at TU Delft (Netherlands) and the FOM Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter have found irrefutable proof that the so-called avalanche effect by electrons occurs in specific, very small semiconducting crystals.

Brainstorm-Skills

May 27, 2008 6:15 am | Articles | Comments

American EE students need exposure to new technologies and design techniques that did not exist 10 to 15 years ago, but are also under fire for not having a solid grasp of basic science and math skills. How do you feel the issue can be addressed to create engineers able to deal with competition and design pressures in the new disruptive engineering environment?

ESC Update(2)

May 19, 2008 1:45 pm | Articles | Comments

“Challenge X” Vehicles Strut Their Stuff In Manhattan

May 19, 2008 6:56 am | by Alix Paultre | Blogs | Comments

It may have been a cold and damp morning in Manhattan, but that didn’t damp the passions of the participants in the Challenge X national collegiate engineering competition. This year’s challenge, sponsored by the US Department of Energy and General Motors, focuses on technology integration and full-vehicle development of advanced alternate-technology drivetrain and subsystems. By participating in the Challenge X program, the students gain real-world engineering skills and hands-on learning to better prepare them for a future career in engineering.

ECN Brainstorm: Near-field Communications

May 16, 2008 8:14 am | Articles | Comments

For line of sight near-field bidirectional wireless communication applications would you rather use IrDA light-based methodologies or RF?

Printed Flexible Solar Cells Provide Embedded Renewable Power

May 12, 2008 6:43 am | Blogs | Comments

With the cost of energy approaching the insane, new and improved methods of creating better and more easily deployable solar power cells are very welcome. This advance in manufacture by Konarka Technologies promises to deliver cheaper power cells in large quantities. I hope they can commercialize the technology to the point we can use solar as a tricke-charge backup in every powered application exposed to the sun.

Thermal Concerns in LED Lighting

April 28, 2008 11:40 am | by Steve Bowling, Microchip Technology Inc. | Articles | Comments

While LEDs offer mainstream lighting applications benefits such as long life, durability and high efficiency, the lifetime of an LED product may be significantly shortened without proper thermal management safeguards in your design.

Kits for Kids 2008

April 28, 2008 10:55 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

With summer vacation on the way, keep kids occupied with engineering-like activities and projects.

Digital Power Management and the PMBus

April 25, 2008 5:50 am | by Torbjorn Holmberg, Ericsson Power Modules | Articles | Comments

As systems that incorporate low-voltage logic become ever more complex, the power supplies necessary to correctly operate multiple-voltage chips such as DSPs and FPGAs similarly increase in complexity. For example, it’s now commonplace for an FPGA’s core to operate at 1.2 – 1.8V, while its I/O banks run from multiple levels to interface with external logic families. Most often, chips that have core power supplies that are independent from I/O and auxiliary levels require careful power sequencing to ensure they start up and operate correctly.

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