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<p>DATE 2001 attendees will learn the recent developments and future visions in automotive electronics from representatives of the European car industry.</p>

The demonstration of an InfiniBand network architecture was expected during the first quarter, and doesn't mean the technology has been deployed, said Bert McComas, an analyst at InQuest Market Research, Gilbert, Ariz.

In the past two years, the network processing industry has blossomed into an energized and highly diversified market,” said John Metz, an analyst with Sterling Research. For continued market innovation and growth comes the necessity to adopt universally accepted specification and industry benchmarks. The real winners here are the customers and network integrators.”

In addition to the companies with representatives on the board, other NP Forum members include Applied Micro Circuits Corp., Conexant, IDT, Mitel Semiconductor, Nortel, PMC-Sierra, Vitesse, and Wind River Systems.

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The next meeting of the NP Forum is scheduled for March 12 in Denver. The NP Forum plans to meet monthly until June, and then semi-monthly.

Superconductors were once the vision of the future for levitating trains and resistance-free electrics. But the future may well be in electronics, as researchers have found a way to use the materials in transistors to tackle the coming power dissipation problems.

This is not making use of the superconducting properties, but to tackle the problem of transistor gate oxides getting ever thinner. As the gate thickness of silicon dioxide falls below 2nm, the leakage current rises, creating some of the power dissipation problems highlighted by Intel.

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Researchers at the Centre for Superconducting and Magnetic Materials in Singapore have used yttria-stabilised zirconia oxide (YSZ) as a gate material because it is thermally stable with silicon up to 1000K and has a sufficiently large electron gap to be used as a dielectric.

The researchers, reporting in a letter to the Semiconductor Science and Technology journal, used a pulsed laser deposition technique, bombarding the surface of the silicon with Zr atoms, and annealing to create the thin film with a thickness of 9nm.

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Importantly, the crystal structure is such that the crystal bonds directly to the silicon substrate and there is no layer of amorphous silicon dioxide in between to cause problems for devices. The process is relatively simple for manufacturing compared with techniques such as molecular beam epitaxy.

The measurements showed that the YSZ layer has a capacitance equivalent to an oxide thickness between 1.77 and 3.6nm. The YSZ also has a leakage current of around 10-5 A/cm2 compared with 1A/cm2 for the 1.77nm silicon dioxide, partly because it is thicker.

The BuffaloGrid Project has based its research on the premise that mobile phones can be a lifeline for people in disadvantaged regions that have no wire telephone service, and is at the heart of economic growth in those regions. However, sometimes even if people in the locations have devices, they don't have ready access to electricity to charge them.

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Today's system-on-a-chip (SOC) designs typically contain micro-controllers, digital signal processors, memories, peripherals, and physical interface connections to external devices in a single package. Portions of the firmware used to test and verify these devices can also be used during the normal operation of the device. To allow for this, the engineer implementing the firmware into an external device needs to consider the functional operation of the device and how to interface with other executable code. Examples of the types of external device functions are memory access routines, on-chip peripheral drivers, and bootstrap and system start-up. Since reduced power consumption is a goal of SOC designs, any reduction in external memory access will reduce the power consumption of the design. By placing parts of the firmware in on-chip ROM, memory access can be faster and use less power.

This article describes the requirements and challenges of providing system start-up code for the SOC designs and discusses how different processor designs can be configured and boot code can be started at power up time. Of significant importance is the execution of the code at start-up. This code must be able to detect if it needs to perform a Flash load, run a diagnostic, or perform normal system initialization. The article will also describe how the start-up code can be implemented in on-chip ROM, where it must last throughout the lifetime of the device, and how it will be able to handle unknown system configurations. I'll place particular importance on the Flash loading process. The Flash loading process must handle Flash-programming algorithms of many device types, yet also be small in size. Additionally, the Flash loading process must be able to communicate with an external device to receive the data for programming. Ultimately, my goal is to identify some of the candidate firmware for on-chip code and provide insight to the requirements for accomplishing such a task.

Power and external connections

Crawford continues to lead the effort to identify and hire a permanent successor, the company said.

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