Green in: Two CPUs at 1 W and a batteryless wireless sensor module

May 1, 2010 OpenSystems Media

In our Deep Green Editor's Choice section, we look at technology helping design green into today's new products.

This month’s news shows just how hot and heavy the competition is in new 1 W and below processors, with an ARM-based entrant and a Power Architecture entrant. Also of note is a new module that helps implement wireless sensors powered from something like a small solar panel.

1 W, ARM core, and more

Highly integrated ARM-based parts are pushing more and more performance into less and less power, and the new Marvell ARMADA 310 goes into the 1 W at 1 GHz fray with a vengeance. One of this CPU’s interesting features I found from my previous life was that this part contains the same system crossbar that’s in the Discovery Ethernet controller family, making I/O traffic very fast inside the part.

Figure 1: Marvell ARMADA 310 block

When you’re a 1 W CPU, you can make all kinds of embedded devices happen with interfaces like an integrated DDR3 controller, LCD controller, two GbE ports, two SATA ports, USB 2.0, SDIO/MMC, two PCI Express ports, audio, security, and more. If there’s a bit more power available, the core can run as fast as 2.0 GHz, giving it interesting scalability. It’s in a 15 mm x 15 mm  FCBGA and sells for under $15 in 10K quantities.

Marvell Semiconductor
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1 W, Power core, and more

Not to be left out, in what’s being called the smallest-footprint Power Architecture implementation to date, AppliedMicro is taking the path to 1 W video-enabled consumer devices of all kinds. With CPU speeds up to 800 MHz, the new APM801xx family gets Power Architecture into a space where it hasn’t been able to play much until now.

Figure 2: AppliedMicro APM801xx

Beyond the Power core, the System-on-Chip integrates PCI Express, SATA, GbE, SDIO, TDM, and USB 2.0 interfaces. Typical power is 1 W active and 0.3 W standby. Two packaging options are available, a 10 mm x 10 mm BGA and a 14 mm x 14 mm BGA, and it sells for less than $10 in 10K quantities.

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Scavenging for power is good

Most people call this energy harvesting, but the name on the EnOcean STM 300 data sheet is “scavenger transceiver module,” which is really creative. Many wireless sensors sleep and wake up briefly to transmit data, and the STM 300 is designed to do that powered from a solar cell or thermal harvester.

Figure 3: EnOcean Dolphin STM 300 module

To do the wireless sensor job, the STM 300 combines a 16 MHz 8051 core; an 868 MHz radio (also available in a 315 MHz version); an ADC with 3 x 8-bit or 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6-bit inputs; four digital inputs; and external wake inputs. The part sleeps at 200 nanoamps, receives at 33 milliamps, and transmits at 24 milliamps. The temp range is -25 °C to +85 °C, and the part accepts 2.1 V-4.5 V, with 2.6 V needed for start-up.

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Don Dingee (Editorial Director)
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