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March Madness in the World of MCUs

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Ann R. Thryft
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Why FRAM?
Ann R. Thryft   3/28/2012 12:21:13 PM
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Jon, interesting that the MSP430 Wolverine uses FRAM. I remember writing about this memory type years ago, but it never seemed to catch on in a big way although its benefits were obvious. Any idea if that's changed? Or why TI chose it for this specific MCU? 


tekochip
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Re: Why FRAM?
tekochip   3/28/2012 4:08:08 PM
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I believe using FRAM came from Ramtron finally being able to free up its licensing and other business concerns. I was fortunate enough to use a FRAM part recently and it performed exactly as described on the label. Other than the low current capability the technology also allows you to have a very free memory map, and interesting features like self-modifying code. TI really has something, rather than just introducing a faster/smarter micro, they truly have a new innovation.


Charles Murray
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Re: Why FRAM?
Charles Murray   3/28/2012 7:55:42 PM
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MSP430 continues to push the state of the art in power consumption. Interesting that they chose the name "Wolverine," although it apparently did not help the University of Michigan during March Madness.

Charles Murray
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Re: Why FRAM?
Charles Murray   3/28/2012 8:01:13 PM
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I agree, Ann. Everybody on the electronics and materials beats seemed to be writing about FRAM for a decade before anything happend. TI finally incorporated it into a microcontroller about a year ago.

http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=230477

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Why FRAM?
Ann R. Thryft   3/29/2012 12:42:50 PM
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Thanks, tekochip and Chuck. I didn't realize that licensing issues were one of, if not the, major hindrance to wider adoption of FRAM. I'm still curious to know why TI put it in this MCU vs some other one.


Jon Titus
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Re: Why FRAM?
Jon Titus   4/2/2012 12:11:32 PM
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Hi,Ann.  I bet TI put the FRAM in the MSP430 first because this MCU appeals to engineers who need to save as much power as possible. Because the FRAM operates from a 1.5-volt supply, it doesn't require a charge-pump circuit to produce the higher voltage needed by flash memory. That saves energy right away. According to TI, the FRAM section reduces memory power use by a factor of as high as 250 times. The FRAM also has faster throughput for read/write cycles and a very long life for such cycles.  One additional capability--as noted already in a comment--gives programmers the capability to divide memory as they choose and adjust the partition as storage needs change. The entire memory-address range operates within the FRAM. So if you need only 1 kbyte of storage for temporary data, you can have 15 kbytes left for a program.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Why FRAM?
Ann R. Thryft   4/3/2012 9:03:02 AM
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Thanks, Jon, for that info. That makes sense. Back in the day when I covered memory, I used to wish I could write more about FRAM since it seemed like such a nifty technology for specific applications. That adjustable partitioning looks especially useful.


Jon Titus
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More info about FRAM technology
Jon Titus   4/3/2012 11:05:07 AM
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Wikipedia has a good article about FRAM technology and it notes Ramton has worked with Texas Instruments for over 10 years, so that also might explain TI's interest in replacing high-power Flash memory and SRAM with FRAM. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferroelectric_RAM.

Charles Murray
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Re: More info about FRAM technology
Charles Murray   4/13/2012 6:41:44 PM
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FRAM is also getting used used in remote structural monitoring applications -- bridges, buildings, etc -- because it provides a 250X power savings.

http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=230477

tekochip
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Platinum
Gamma Sterilization
tekochip   4/14/2012 9:26:02 AM
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Another great advantage of FRAM is that it will hold up to gamma sterilization.

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