Design News is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Sitemap


Articles from 2003 In November


Electronics

Electronics

ONLINE DATABASE

Enter manufacturer model or serial number

Now available for Virtual TEDS is an online database; IEEE P1451.4-compliant electronic data sheets instantly provide plug-and-play capabilities to legacy sensors. Virtual TEDS can deliver the advantages of IEEE P1451.4 to measurement and automation systems using traditional sensors. To access the database, users enter the manufacturer model or serial number and are provided with that sensor's specific scaling and calibration information packaged in the IEEE P1451.4 binary format. National Instruments, www.ni.com Enter 646

CONVERTER

High speed and low noise

The AD9726 is a 16-bit digital-to-analog converter with a conversion rate that exceeds 600 msps. It reportedly solves noise and bandwidth problems by reducing intermodulation distortion, and it has a full-scale adjustment span of 2- 20 mA, allowing the product to work at lowered power levels. The product is suited for applications involving high-frequency, high-bandwidth broadcasting and communication, such as MMDS and LMDS. Analog Devices, www.analog.com Enter 647

PALLET RFID SYSTEM

Assembly and production automation

The BIS-L pallet RFID system features a read-write range of 24-100 mm and is compatible with 125 kHz systems. Consisting of three main components-a read/write head, data processor, and data carrier family-it is designed to eliminate false data, increasing dependability. Rugged enough to be permanently installed on pallets, the data carriers come in 20-, 30-, and 50-mm diameters with each size available in 40-bit read-only and 192-byte read/write versions. Balluff, www.balluff.com Enter 648

HEAT-SHRINKABLE MOLDED PARTS

Improved lead time

Now available with a 10-day lead time are nearly 1,000 part numbers for the company's heat-shrinkable molded parts. Some of the shapes included are circular boots, caps, right-angle boots, D-subminiature boots, and T- and Y-transitions. The parts are used in a range of industrial and commercial wire harness applications requiring mechanical and environmental protection, and used on military platforms. Tyco Electronics, www.tycoelectronics.com Enter 649

POWER SUPPLIES

Lightweight

Measuring high current uses 1.5 x 3 x 5 inches, the TEK 150 series of ac/dc power supplies features U-channel casing, enabling operation at up to 100W without fan cooling (up to 150W with forced cooling of 16 ft 3/min.) The series includes four models, offering output voltage ratings of 5-6, 12-16, 24-30, and 48-56V. Suitable uses are in thermal printing systems where a high current may be needed for a short time to print large black areas. HiTek Power Corp., www.hitekpower.com Enter 650

FLASH MICROCONTROLLERS

Cost-effective solutions

The PIC18F8680/6680 and PIC18F8585/6585 microcontrollers feature up to 64 kbytes of self-programmable Flash memory. Using the new ECAN module-a reportedly flexible and easily used CAN 2.0B interface-multiple applications can be configured on a single node, and a device can be re-used across different applications. The devices feature an operating range of 2.0-5.5V. Microchip Technology Inc., www.microchip.com Enter 651

MINATURE DOOR SWITCH

Safe technology

The D3D uses wiping "rocker" contacts, offering a reportedly silent operation with virtually no arcing possibility. Available in plunger and lever configurations, the switch snaps into a panel, using a standard, removable crimp connector for wiring ease. It can be used in home electronics and factory equipment. Omron Electronics Inc., www.info.omron.com Enter 652

PC/104 ENCLOSURE

Simple, low-cost

Designed to be strong, durable, and functional, the ENC-104 is made from 0.0625-inch rustproof aluminum and weighs less than 2 lbs. The condensed size is meant to be small enough to mount inside equipment, but large enough to accept a stack of up to four PC/104 or PC/104 Plus modules. It is intended for embedded applications that require mounting inside NEMA boxes, OEM machinery, and other areas where it's necessary to protect a PC/104 embedded PC module stack. WinSystems Inc., www.winsystems.com Enter 653

HEAT SHRINKABLE TUBING

Made for easy installation

Featuring a meltable adhesive to seal out moisture and a heat-activated thermoplastic sealant, the Heavy-Wall Polyolefin Heat Shrink Tubing is designed for easy installation. With a 3:1 shrink ratio to fit over terminals, it functions as a strain relief that can be imprinted for identification. The product comes in red and black colors, 10 expanded sizes, and is self-extinguishing and UV-resistant. Appropriate applications include heavy equipment connections, and battery terminals. Nelco Products, Inc. www.nelcoproducts.com Enter 654

POWER CORDAGE

Rugged, durable

Available for same-day shipping on standard orders of up to 1000 ft, the Direct-stocking program allows customers to choose from a wide range of gauge, conductor, and stranding configurations. Choices include SJT, a PVC insulated flexible power cord for demanding applications, and the EnduroFlex 1(R), featuring a thermoplastic alloy jacket material that reportedly provides resistance to abrasion, oil, detergents, solvents, and moisture. Northwire Inc., www.northwire.com Enter 655

SURFACE-MOUNT RELAYS

Practical solution

Designed to provide improved RF signal repeatability over the frequency range, the Series GRF300 and GRF303 broadband TO-5 electromechanical relays employ a butt-lead mounting scheme. They also feature a ground shield that insulates and shields each lead, reportedly ensuring contact-to-contact and pole-to-pole isolation. Each model is available in 5 and 12V dc. Teledyne Relays, www.teledynerelays.com Enter 656

COIN CELL RETAINERS

Compatible with most soldering operations

The low profile coin cell retainers feature automated surface mount placement and top-loading battery convenience for high-density packaging. The products will accept 6.8-, 12-, 16-, 20-, 23-, and 24-mm cells from major manufacturers, and they are designed to provide high reliability spring tension, low contact resistance, and have clearly marked polarity. Keystone Electronics Corp. www.keyelco.com Enter 657

HIGH TEMP BATTERIES

For monitoring systems use

CR2450-HR (for standard vehicles) and CR2450HR-EX (for premium vehicles) are high-temperature resistant lithium manganese dioxide batteries. They are designed for use in onboard tire pressure monitoring systems preparing for the new Federal rules mandating automatic warning of faulty tires. A change in gasket material, new crimping structure, and improved content are included in the new designs. Maxell Corporation, www.maxell.com Enter 658

IR SENSOR

Provides amplified output

The HOA1180 IR sensor features reflective metal components with a choice of phototransistor (fast response) or photodarlington (higher sensitivity) output. The sensor provides amplified output for reportedly easy differentiation between actual signals and noise. It is suited for applications involving extreme temperatures or wide operating temperature ranges. Honeywellwww.honeywell.com/sensing Enter 659

LCD TOUCHMONITOR

Wider viewing angle

The 1247L 12.1 in LCD rear-mount touch monitor features up to 800 x 600 resolution at 75 Hz. With an injection-molded minibezel and watertight seal, the monitor comes with IntelliTouch pure glass surface-wave touch technology for finger or gloved-hand operation. The product is ideally suited for small form factor public access. Tyco Electronics www.tycoelectronics.com Enter 670

HIGH-SPEED CARD READER

480-mbps data transfer rates

The ImageMate 8-in-1 card reader features four slots that accept industry-standard storage cards; in addition, the slots can be used simultaneously to transfer data between individual cards and/or the computer. The product uses Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and is capable of data transfer rates of up to 480 mbps. It is ideal for users who rely on a variety of flash memory cards for electronic gadgets. SanDisk Corp., www.sandisk.com Enter 671

VGA LCD KIT

No driver installation required

Designed to be a complete hardware solution that takes the guesswork out of on-site configuration, the SK-2014R - 14.1 analog VGA LCD kit offers a tight dot pitch and uses an existing video controller card. The pre-configured kits include cables, inverter, controller card, and LCD. Suited applications include professionals in industries such as kiosk, POS, and process controls. Earth Computer Technologies www.earthlcd.com Enter 672

FIBER-OPTIC BACKLIGHTING PANELS

Low power consumption

The company's new fiber-optic backlighting panels feature conductive pads that integrate switch technology into the fiber-optic backlight. Designed for membrane switch backlighting applications, the products can be used in keypads, keyboards, remote controls, and any other applications requiring membrane switches, according to the company. They reportedly have long lives, no impact on the tactile feel of elastomeric keys, and permit low consumption. Lumitex Inc., www.lumitex.com Enter 673

SDRAMs

Small 160-mm2 size

The 1-Gbit Double Data Rate Synchronous DRAM was created using the company's 110 nm CMOS process. It is reportedly the industry's smallest 1-Gbit DDR SDRAM to date at a size of 160 mm 2. It features dual-die-stack, allowing high density on a small space. Infineon Technologies Corp.www.infineon.com/boerse Enter 674

ADAPTER PLUGS

Wiring access for all I/O control signals

Designed to provide wiring access for all I/O control signals for up to 24-position I/O racks, the I/OCA adapter plugs directly into the IDC 50-pin connector of industry standard mounting racks. The 26-position terminal block provides wiring access to each I/O control line, in addition to +V and common. Wire sizes range from 24 to 16 AWG. Brentek International, Inc., www.brentek.com Enter 675

INVERTER IN KIT FORM

Provides packaging flexibility

An 8m class inverter in kit form is now offered to provide packaging flexibility to the LCD designer. Supplied with the circuit design, critical magnet components, and complete layout validation, this inverter kit features up to 5W of output power, and is designed for users of one- or two-lamp LCD modules. Endicott Research Group, www.ergpower.com Enter 676

POWER RELAY

AZ2270 series

The AZ2270 relay from American Zettler features a QC connection that has been moved to give the advantage of decreasing the internal temperature rise. A physical match to the T9A style of relay, it is rated at 30A, 277V ac, and up to 2 HP. It features class F insulation, is available with ac or dc coils, and with form A, B, or C contacts. American Zettler, www.azettler.com Enter 677

SPEED SENSOR

Broader range of applications

The HE950 sensor features dual Hall-Effect sensing and signal processing, making it capable of operating across a range of target sizes. It produces a digital pulse signal for use with speed switches, tachometers, counters, and signal conditioners, or as a direct pulse input into PLCs. Installation is reportedly easy, and it can be mounted up to 1500 ft from the control unit. Applications include high speed monitoring of gear-teeth, spokes, or keyway. Electro-Sensors Inc., www.electro-sensors.com Enter 678

MICROWAVE COAXIAL ASSEMBLIES

Frequencies up to 67 GHz

A family of custom microwave cable assemblies in frequency ranges from dc through 67 GHz is available. Designed with laboratory and production applications in mind, their construction allows the assemblies to be flexible while maintaining a crush resistance of 800 lbs per linear inch. The test assemblies offer excellent phase/amplitude stability, ruggedized connectors, and quick turn-around time for standard lengths. W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc.www.gore.com/electronics Enter 679

BEAM FORK SENSOR

Precision with ease of use

Designed for high-volume, in-process error proofing assembly applications, Baulluff's new one-piece "plug and play" BGL thru beam fork sensor allows fast, accurate installation without the need for special brackets or complex beam alignment procedures. Available in 30-, 50-, 80-, and 120-mm sizes, this laser produces precision resolution down to .03 mm. Balluff, Inc., www.balluff.com Enter 680

PRESSURE-MOUNTED SOCKET

Maximum ease of use and flexibility

The new CSP/MicroBGA test and burn-in socket for devices from 14 to 27 mm2, in applications under 1 GHz, incorporate spring probe contacts for maximum ease of use and flexibility. Requiring no soldering, it is ideal for test and burn-in of CSP, MicroBGA, DSP, LGA, SRAM, DRAM, and Flash Devices with a pitch of .50 mm and larger. Features include Interposer sets with different footprints, integral plastic alignment posts that accurately line up with the interposer set for secure mounting, and a four point crown to ensure "scrub" on the solder oxides. Aries Electronics, www.arieselec.com Enter 681

DC CURRENT TRANSDUCERS

Tighter accuracy, wider temperature range

A new series of dc current transducers provides tighter accuracy to 1.0% FS over a wider temperature range of -40 to 85C. Ideal for local and remote power stations where feedback of operational data is required, the new series 920 and 921 transducer automatically monitors system data, according to the company. Each sensor only uses a two-wire connection, simplifying installation, and incorporates a yoke that opens and closes, making them suitable for use in updating older systems, the company adds. American Aerospace Controlswww.a-a-c.com Enter 682

LINEAR ACCELEROMETER

Single and tri-axial configurations

Designed to operate from +24 to +32V dc aircraft power, the SA-102MFTA and it's tri-axial version SA-302MFTA miniature accelerometers feature high level output signal and self-regulation qualities of the servo loop design, making them excellent candidates for airborne telemetry applications, according to the company. The output signal format is compatible with most airborne VCO's, and the SA-102MFTA incorporates the HP torque system, the company adds. Columbia Research Laboratories, www.columbiaresearchlab.com Enter 683

FIBER OPTIC BACKLIGHTING PANELS

With membrane switch conductive pads

Designed for use with keypads, keyboards, and membrane switches, the new fiber optic backlighting panels feature conductive pads that are printed onto the underside of the fiber optic panel, and when integrated with rubber keypads or membrane switch overlays, function as a switch, according to the company. These backlights can have up to 100,000 hours of life and permit low power consumption. Lumitex, Inc. www.lumitex.com Enter 684

LOW-POWER SWITCHERS

Wide voltage input range

Low-power switching units offer 4.5 W/inch 3 and deliver up to 13A from the primary output. Designed for 1U installation, Models LPT82 and LPT83 include over-voltage protection, power factor correction, input range of 85-265V ac, remote voltage sensing and the main output, and a power-fail output signal. Units have UL, CSA, CE, CB, NEMKO and VDE approvals. Astec Power, www.astec.com. Enter 685

Fire away

Fire away

To reduce the risk associated with high-speed police accidents and the potential for fuel leaks that accompany them, Ford has announced that it is developing a fire suppression system as a factory option for the 2005 Crown Victoria Police Interceptors. Built in conjunction with Aerojet, a U.S. military supplier, the system determines the optimal time for deploying the fire suppression material by measuring post-impact vehicle movement using advanced electronics and on-board sensors. More information can be found at www.cvpi.com, which is dedicated to improving communication between law enforcement personnel, independent experts, component suppliers, and Ford employees.

ST Micro researches fuel cells

ST Micro researches fuel cells

Chipmaker STMicroelectronics is joining in the race to develop fuel cells for portable equipment. Its Geneva, Switzerland research center has developed a 3D technique for making the membranes found in fuel cells. Using nanoporous layers made from silicon provides millions of pores that measure only a few nanometers in diameter, yielding more surface area for chemical reactions to take place. The company did not estimate a timeframe for commercialization.

Product tagging

Product tagging

Inexpensive RFID tags may be seeing more use in the consumer world, thanks to printable electronic polymers. Available at 1 cent each, the tags can be used to monitor stock and reportedly may reduce inventory costs by up to 10% and staff costs by 20%. Flexible polymer circuits would allow tags to be printed directly onto, or into, low-cost packages during manufacturing. Wal-Mart has already requested its top 100 suppliers to use RFID tags by 2005.

Vertical Union

Vertical Union


Building Up: Professor Ronald Guttmann holds a circular 200-mm diameter chip wafer. To add more functionality, he is vertically stacking, bonding, and then thinning down chip wafers.

Ronald Gutmann is stacking chips and wagering that his effort to interconnect wafers in 3D will allow more electrical functionality in less space.

Present Position: Professor, Dept. of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Degrees: B.E.E., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; M.E.E., New York University; Ph.D. in Electrophysics, RPI

Area of research: Semiconductor devices, IC technology, and microwave/RF techniques

Most recent research? Typically in ICs, you try to make individual features smaller and components larger to enable more functionality on an individual 2D chip. One option to increase productivity is to put more than one active layer in a 3D stack. So we are building in a vertical direction.

Is there a vertical limit to stacking interconnects? We envision three to four levels as being adequate for most applications. Stacking the chip wafers involves aligning the wafers, bonding them together with dielectric or insulating adhesive, thinning the wafer down to 1 to 10 mirons, and then inter-wafer interconnecting using copper damascene patterning. The new wafer is the same thickness as the original wafer.

Doesn't thinning a chip take away some functionality? No, the full functionality of the wafer is contained in the top 10 microns of a 730-nm thick wafer. The remainder of the wafer is for enabling handling during IC processing.

Is heat dissipation a problem with all those layers? Thermal flow is an issue. It is handled by placing heat generating circuits at the "bottom" and low heat generating circuits at the "upper levels." The issue is real, but can be minimized by proper partitioning-and with new thermal designs, which are not part of our research.

What are some target applications? High-performance microprocessors, 3D imaging applications, and wireless products for industrial, consumer, and aerospace and defense uses.

Contact Gutmann at [email protected]

How to Defend Yourself Against a Man Armed with a Grapefruit

How to Defend Yourself Against a Man Armed with a Grapefruit


Microchip's Kavaiya: He's got a potato-powered clock too!

Gaurang Kavaiya, a principal applications engineer at Microchip Technology, was trying to figure out what prop would best illustrate the features of the company's new family of PIC Microcontrollers featuring nanoWatt Technology. And get the attention of engineers at trade shows. Then, inspiration struck: What better way to showcase what Microchip claims is "the industry's lowest power technology for embedded systems" than to use fruit as the power source for a digital thermometer? Okay, he sort of cheated when he used a grapefruit. According to one experiment published on the web that employed zinc and copper electrodes, grapefruits average a 0.93V output, which tops oranges (0.89V), kiwis (0.85V), and the lowly tomato (0.62V). Though the type of electrodes matter more than the fruit, the sight of a grapefruit powering a nanoWatt microcontroller, temperature sensor (a thermistor), and a 3.5-digit LCD display has been drawing crowds at trade shows since Microchip introduced the nanoWatt line in February. Oh, and just in case anyone is wondering, the technology itself has been garnering interest from a wide range of design engineers, particularly those challenged by the need to extend battery life in mobile electronic devices. To help engineers come up to speed on nanoWatt, Microchip offers a host of tips on its website at http://www.microchip.com/download/tools/picmicro/demo/pdem4/41200a.pdf. And for those engineers who want a good party trick, Gaurang has graciously agreed to let Design News publish the instructions for his grapefruit-powered thermometer. Download them at http://www.manufacturing.net/contents/pdf/grapefruitdemo.pdf, along with a parts list. For those looking for more insight into edible power sources, check out Erika Lindstrom's "The Electric Fruits" at http://members.aol.com/dswart/ElectricFruits.pdf and www.madsci.org.

Faster Chips on the Way

Faster Chips on the Way

Within the next three to five years, design engineers could have at their disposal new CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) computer chips that are 40 to 65% faster than the chips currently used in computers. Those lightening-fast chips could power web servers, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other portable devices, or engineering workstations that could enable dramatically faster simulations and analyses of designs.

IBM scientists have developed the chips using so-called strained-silicon-directly-on-insulator (SSDOI) technology. Strained silicon is silicon whose crystal arrangement has been enlarged by about 1% by stretching the top silicon layer with an underlying layer of silicon germanium. The result: Electrons will flow through faster. The insulator is located in between the transistor and the substrate so that there is no leakage.

In IBM's process, scientists remove the germanium layer after enlarging the crystal arrangement and before actually fabricating the chip. That step, says Mei Kei Ieong, IBM's senior manager of exploratory devices, avoids the heat-dissipation problems normally associated with germanium. "The process for making chips is different with germanium, and we don't have enough experience to optimize the process," he says.

CMOS technology is the backbone of electronics devices because of its high-performance and low-power capabilities. But the technology is approaching its limits in terms of scalability, so the computer and semiconductor industries have been working hard to find new technologies for making electric charges move faster through chip-device channels to increase circuit speeds and lower power consumption. In related activities, HP and Dell have designed new workstations based on Intel's Itanium 2 chip.

IBM will present the details of this latest technology jump at the International Electron Devices Meeting, December 7-10 in Washington, DC.

Where Upsizing Cuts Costs

Where Upsizing Cuts Costs

Drop your lance, Don Quixote, for your enemy this time is sturdier, mightier, and way out of your reach.

Those aren't your legendary wheat-grinding windmills with wooden sails and brink walls straddling the globe. They're electricity-generating wind turbines that have steel towers taller than Big Ben, rotors spanning wider than Boeing-747 wings, and sometimes structures massive enough to land helicopters that transport maintenance crews.

In terms of capacity, some of these behemoths boast production of 3,000 kW. In Europe alone, where three-quarters of the wind energy worldwide is generated, wind power capacity has been growing by an annual average of 35% since the late-90s, according to the American Wind Energy Association (www.awea.org).

At the same time, wind energy costs are lower. Today, wind energy costs about 3 cents per kWh, compared to 10 cents per kWh in the 1980s, says Henrik Jorgensen, Senior Technical Manager at Denmark's Vestas Wind System A/S (www.vestas.dk), the leading wind-turbine manufacturer in the $6.5 billion global market. The wind industry as a whole is poised to grow and compete as an economical source of renewable power.

This year, Vestas is introducing its V90-3.0 MW model that features a 90m-diameter rotor, a significant expansion from the 15m-diameter rotors the company made 20 years ago.

In the U.S., GE Wind Energy (www.gepower.com/dhtml/wind/en_us), which accounts for more than 5,600 wind turbine installations worldwide, has also erected on the farmland southeast of Madrid, Spain, an operating prototype of its largest turbine ever-a 3.6-MW offshore high-wind machine with a 104m-diameter rotor and an optional helicopter hosting platform. The company is hoping to erect 130 3.6-MW turbines off Cape Cod, MA, for the proposed Cape Wind project (www.capewind.org), the first offshore wind farm in the country.

Critical to these massive creations are the rotors and blades, comments Ken Polnicky, engineering manager at Vestas American Wind Technology. A combination of blade optimization principles is often used in modern wind-turbine design, Jorgensen adds.

When the blades capture the wind, power is transferred to the rotor hub, which is attached to the shafts for the gearbox and electrical generator (see sidebar on page 35). The rotor of a wind turbine moves when wind passes over the aerofoil-shaped blades, creating an aerodynamic lift. A drag force perpendicular to the lift force, however, counters the rotation. So a prime objective in rotor design-no matter for what size-is to give the blades a relatively high lift-to-drag ratio. The ratio often varies along the length of the blades to optimize the turbine's energy output at various wind speeds.

Even the blade number matters. A rotor with an odd number of blades-and three is the predominant choice-is similar to a "solid" disk when considering the dynamic properties of the turbine. If the rotor has an even number of blades, it will have stability problems when the uppermost blade gets the maximum power from the wind and bends backward while the lowermost blade passes into the "wind shade" in front of the stiff tower, inducing a racking moment into the hub.

In addition, "the aerofoil shape is designed with a twist as you look along the blade to maintain the optimum angle of attack along the blade length," says Aaron Avagliano, who works as a mechanical engineer at GE Global Research.

And to achieve the optimal strength/weight ratio for blades that now easily weigh more than 6 metric tons, Avagliano adds, rotors are usually made of balsa wood, fiberglass, and epoxy resin, with the top and bottom half of the blades manufactured in a resin-infusion process.

In fact, Vestas considers blades and rotors such critical parts in wind turbine design that it has decided not to outsource their manufacturing. At the Vestas lab in Denmark, the design team uses a software called Vestas Turbine Simulator to optimize each rotor so that it will last 20 years, or 10 billion cycles, Jorgensen says. In addition, each Vestas blade is made in one single mold so that the company can eliminate joining errors, Jorgensen adds.

Also critical in windmill design is the controller, which monitors and controls the blade pitch-the turning of the blades around their longitudinal axis to optimize power output. On both the Vestas V90 and GE 3.6-MW models is a microprocessor-based controller for pitch control. Monitoring the wind turbine's power output at all times, these controllers can order the blades to turn slightly out of the wind when the output becomes too high, or turn back into the wind if the wind drops. On the latest Vestas and GE machines, blades can rotate in pitch at a few degrees independent of each other.

Pitch control also minimizes machine fatigue by slowing, sometimes even stalling, rotors in the case of strong wind, adds Christine Deal de Azua, spokeswoman of the AWEA. Such fatigue control is critical because most wind turbines receive maintenance only two times a year, comments Jim Lyons, GE's chief engineer of research.

Despite all these efforts, the wind industry still has room for improvement for sure. GE, for example, is looking into putting more carbon fiber into the blades to reduce the mass, Lyons says. That will lower costs, since simply shipping a 40m-diameter rotor can account for up to 10% of the turbine costs, Avagliano explains. Vestas has also asked its vendors to manufacture noiseless gearboxes by adopting helical gears to ease the noise concern about wind turbines, Jorgensen comments.

But the biggest growth hurdle of the wind industry-at least in the U.S.-lies outside the engineering arena, comments Deal de Azua. It's the costs to the consumers and utilities.

Today, wind produces less than 1% of electricity in the U.S., the AWEA says. But that number may reach 6% by 2020 if the federal government provides production incentives to the wind-energy industry as has been done in California. The state provides 50% cash rebate for small wind (10 kW or less) and other renewable energy systems. As of the end of 2002, California reported a wind power capacity of 1,822.3 MW, or 38.9% of the nationwide capacity.

The AWEA hopes that Congress will extend the wind energy production tax credit, enacted in 1992, that provides a 1.5-cent credit per kWh of electricity produced from wind technology. The existing legislation is expiring on Dec. 31, 2003.

"We can generate smoother and more growth if we can have more consistent support," says Kathy Belyeu of Strategic Communications at the AWEA.

Rare Earth Spurs Fuel Cells

Rare Earth Spurs Fuel Cells

Researchers at Georgia Tech are looking to oxides of the rare earth elements cerium (Ce), terbium (Tb), and praseodymium (Pr) to perhaps jump start use of small-scale hydrogen production systems for powering fuel cells in homes, as well as for automotive applications. Doping with iron atoms allows these oxides to produce hydrogen at lower temperatures (375-700C vs. 800C). For more details, go to http://gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/newsrelease/oxygenpump.htm.

Autos Drive Chipmakers

Autos Drive Chipmakers

The continued expansion of semiconductors in automobiles continues to drive major developments by IC suppliers. Motorola is unveiling a new automotive line of 32-bit PowerPC chips, Philips is preparing to enter the CPU market with a line based on the ARM core, and Texas Instruments is increasing the power of its DSP chips.

The moves come as the electronics content of vehicles continues to grow and carmakers add more functions such as airbags. Additionally, automakers are making greater use of networked schemes that centralize processing power, using 32-bit chips to control many functions.

"The trends in automotive have triggered us to enter the market with a 32-bit processor," says Michael Schneider, global system marketing manager for Global Automotive Marketing & Sales at Philips Semiconductors (www.semiconductors.philips.com). He explains that Philips is developing an automotive chip based on the ARM 7 core, targeting body and vehicle control applications.

It will make extensive use of Philips' solid base in automotive networking. Networking is expanding beyond CAN to include Flexray for drive by wire, Safe By Wire for airbags, and the Local Interconnect Network (LIN) for sensors and other simple controllers.

Previously, many of the nodes now being linked on these buses would have had individual processors, but using one powerful chip to handle many nodes is a popular direction today. "There's a strong trend towards centralization of certain modules, especially in body control electronics," Schneider says.

Besides these network control applications, new features such as lane departure warning and collision warning use input from cameras, so there's a need for 32-bit chips with video processing power. Philips expects to formally announce its plans late this year or early next year when first silicon is ready.


Speed Needed: Motorola's new processor employs a crossbar switch so communications can occur faster, with three lines working simultaneously without impacting bandwidth.

Motorola's new chip

Motorola (www.motorola.com/automotive) is unveiling a new 32-bit line, the MPC5500, which leverages both the company's PowerPC processor and its strong presence in the powertrain control field. The line increases processing speed to 150 MHz, more than doubling its predecessor's capabilities.

In addition to the PowerPC core, the IC has two microcode engines that offload repetitive, time-critical tasks such as synchronizing tasks occurring in the engine. These small processing engines can be programmed using C code.

It also provides substantially improved data transfer rates. "We employ a crossbar switch that lets up to three masters talk to each other without using up all the bandwidth," says Ray Cornyn, Transportation Business Operations Manager for Motorola's 32-Bit Embedded Controller Division, based in Austin, TX. For example, the CPU can be transferring both analog and digital data while processing data, he adds.

Flash capacity is increased to 2 Mbytes, with 10-second programming time for the full array. It's also being upgraded with error correction.

Texas Instruments is addressing the automotive market with a line that increases processing power while reducing cost. The TMS 320F2801 cores have more than 100 MIPS processing capability, along with pricing down to $5. That translates to 20 MIPS per dollar, 50% more than the 13 MIPS per dollar rating of the closest competitor.