TI Rolls Out FRAM MCU Platform for Ultra-Low-Power Applications

Charles Murray

June 25, 2014

2 Min Read
TI Rolls Out FRAM MCU Platform for Ultra-Low-Power Applications

A new microcontroller (MCU) platform with embedded ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) could provide an ultra-low-power solution for applications ranging from smart utility metering to remote industrial sensing to building automation.

Known as MSP430FR59x/69x microcontrollers, the new products aren't the first FRAM-based MCUs, but they offer five times lower standby power than their predecessors. The lower power operation is considered critical for a growing category of applications that need to run for long durations on limited power.

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"We're seeing that people are trying to do more on the same power budget," Priya Thanigai, product marketing engineer for Texas Instruments, told Design News. "They're still using the same AA batteries, or the same coin cells, but they're trying to add WiFi capability or texting to their old bread-and-butter applications."

Applications for the new MCUs include energy harvesting, motion sensing, home automation, data acquisition, wearable electronics, structural monitoring, and devices associated with the Internet of Things (IoT).

TI says the new FRAM microcontrollers deliver the world's lowest system power. Active power is 100 muA/MHz, while standby power is 450 nA across a temperature range of -40C to 85C. Power consumption is said to be far less than that of Flash-based MCUs. The non-volatile embedded FRAM can also be written to about 100 times faster than Flash.

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The new platform also includes a code-based analysis tool called EnergyTrace++, which measures and displays an application's energy profile. The new tool is designed to help developers optimize their applications for ultra-low-power consumption.

Texas Instruments began work on FRAM technology more than a decade ago, and introduced it on microcontrollers in 2011. The microcontroller technology has been used for structural monitoring of bridges and buildings, as well as for tracking of manufactured products that get shipped around the world.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Murray

Charles Murray is a former Design News editor and author of the book, Long Hard Road: The Lithium-Ion Battery and the Electric Car, published by Purdue University Press. He previously served as a DN editor from 1987 to 2000, then returned to the magazine as a senior editor in 2005. A former editor with Semiconductor International and later with EE Times, he has followed the auto industry’s adoption of electric vehicle technology since 1988 and has written extensively about embedded processing and medical electronics. He was a winner of the Jesse H. Neal Award for his story, “The Making of a Medical Miracle,” about implantable defibrillators. He is also the author of the book, The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1997. Murray’s electronics coverage has frequently appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in Popular Science. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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