An Engineer in Wonderland – An 0.7V microcontroller

Atmel has gone one better, or maybe just 0.2 better, and come up with an MPU that works down to 0.7V.

atmelboostmpulite.jpgLast year around this time, Silicon Labs introduced C8051F9xx – a microcontroller family capable of operation down to 0.9V, and up to 3.6V.

The core does not actually run at 0.9V, there is an in-built boost converter.

Atmel has gone one better, or maybe just 0.2 better, and come up with an MPU that works down to 0.7V.

Dubbed ATtiny43U , it is guaranteed to start from 1.35V (typically 1.2V).

With its little dc-dc converter fed from 1.2V, but the processor shut down, the chip will sit there consuming only 5[micro]A – which is commendably little.

Fire the core up at 4MHz, and this increases to 5mA – also pretty good.

And the dc-dc delivers at least 17mA at 3V from 0.7V – and up to 60mA with a generous input – so there is enough to at least drive an led.

Efficiency is generally above 70%, and up to 95%, and there are a couple of firmware links so the core can control the dc-dc converter.

For operation above 1.8V, the converter can be turned off completely.
Power-down consumption is than 150nA from 3V, or 400uA running at 1MHz.

I do quite like the ability to run from a single NiMH or alkaline cell, particularly when sleep at a few uA is still possible.

Operation from 0.9V is a good idea. I am not sure there is too much to be gained from improving this to 0.7V – except a few more minutes operation from an alkaline perhaps.
But if it comes for free, let’s have that as well, particularly as the core is Atmel’s programmer-friendly AVR.

Alice

Comment below, or to alice@electronicsweekly.com

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