All’s Fair in Love and Power (Consumption)

Fairchild’s New Foray into Smart Power

by Amelia Dalton

Any engineer who is worth his or her salt probably knows the illustrious (and occasionally infamous) tale of Fairchild Semiconductor and the creation of Silicon Valley. Fairchild is certainly one of the most important companies in electronics history. But, what has Fairchild done for us lately? This week my guest is Saj Sahay of Fairchild Semiconductor, and we discuss three megatrends driving innovation in electronic design. It turns out Fairchild Semiconductor is back - with a bold new mission - and they’re doing some really cool stuff in the area of “Power Systems in Package”. As a bonus, we also find out what it’s like to take a run around not one but two olympic stadiums (without having to actually compete in the games). Additionally, we find out how your PCB can have its signal- and power-integrity cakes and eat them too... or something like that.

 

A Self-Sufficient Sensor Node

An OMRON Harvester Powers Imec Circuits

by Bryon Moyer

We recently took a look at one side of vibration: the side that uses it to diagnose nascent illness in manufacturing equipment. And I hinted at a second side, which is what we’ll look at today. The previous discussion was about detecting and decoding vibrations. This one will be about leveraging vibration to harvest energy.

Yes, not a new concept, and we’ve talked about it before, but our prior focus has largely been on piezoelectric solutions. Not so today.

Our focus this time will be on a joint project involving an energy harvester from OMRON and the rest of the system from Imec. We’ll start with the MEMS harvester and then look at how that energy gets managed.

 

Be a Better Programmer

Fewer Bugs and a Happier Boss, All at the Same Time?

by Jim Turley

We all say we want to learn new things, but the first part of learning is admitting your ignorance. Little kids in elementary school have no problem with this. They’re learning new things every day – every minute – so absorbing new information comes naturally.

But as we get older and gain some measure of competence in our careers, our hobbies, and the world in general, we also tend to ossify. We don’t want to learn because we don’t want to acknowledge that we’re inexpert. Learning a new language means preparing to make a thousand dumb mistakes, garbling the grammar, and sounding like a hilarious idiot to native-speakers. Learning about wine means first acknowledging you don’t know much about wine. It’s the same for electronic engineering and programming. To get better, you first have to concede that you’re not already the best. And that can be hard, especially when you’re confessing your inadequacies in front of your peers.

 

Going Vertical

Ecosystem for Interposer-based Design?

by Kevin Morris

We’ve talked a lot lately in these pages about the impending demise of Moore’s Law. Consensus is that, somewhere around the half-century mark, one of the most astounding prophecies in human history will have finally run its course. Next year, we’ll have a round of FinFET devices that will be so exotic and expensive that only a handful of companies will be able to use them. In the decade that follows, we may or may not reach 10nm and 7nm production - using either esoteric unlikelies like EUV or extreme-brute-force multi-patterning techniques - to solve just some of the multitude of barriers to continued downscaling.

Sci-fi techniques like carbon nanotubes, graphene-based devices, quantum computing, and that other-one-you-read-about are so far from production practicality that we may not see any of them in widespread use in our lifetimes. While incredible research shows great promise for many of these ideas, they are all back in the silicon-equivalent of the early 1960s in their evolution. The time and engineering it will take them to catch up with and eventually surpass what we can do with silicon today is substantial.

 

IoT Standards

Is the Time Right to Calm the Chaos?

by Bryon Moyer

OK, so, the Internet of Things (IoT) is hot and heavy, and everyone and their cuzzins are putting “IoT” on their press releases so that editors will read them. And some of those folks are actually developing technology for the IoT.

But, even within the sphere of legitimate development, there are notes of caution: there is a whiff of chaos in the system that’s a bit too strong for some folks. They want standards. To be sure, that’s not everyone. In particular, some companies enjoy having proprietary technology that locks customers out of using anything from any other company. And a big motivation for standards is to ensure inter-operability, which kills that locked-in thing. So not everyone likes standards.

 

On The Hunt: Part One

HLS and Sub-atomic Particle Jitter

by Amelia Dalton

Dateline: The 5th of September. Time: 2100 hours. We're on the hunt. No, we’re not hunting the mysterious Yeti, the Loch Ness monster, or heck even the ever-elusive EUV. This time, we're looking for some HLS. My guest this week is Mark Milligan from Calypto. Mark joins Fish Fry for the very first time to bring HLS into the light, into the world, and into the caring hands... of Google? Oh yes. Also this week, we delve into the deeply nerdy realm of sub-atomic particle jitter and investigate how the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is hoping to solve an age-old existential question: How many dimensions do we really live in? (Spoiler alert: The space-time continuum may actually be a quantum system made up of countless tiny bits of information.)


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