An Engineer in Wonderland – Little PICs for power circuits

I have a soft-spot for low pin-count PICs and have used them for controlling power on several occasions.

So I was intrigued to see Microchip has added a bunch of power-ish peripherals, including a configurable logic block to its 6-20pin PIC10F, 12F and 16F families. 

I have never got too excited by programmable logic, but with microcontrollers finding their way into more and more power-related applications there is a need for fast hardware to intervene under fault conditions.

It also adds more hardware routes between IO pins and peripherals.

In passing, the first time I saw a lot of hardware interconnection between peripherals was in ARM Cortex M3 microcontrollers from Energy Micro, which has gone out of its way to cut power waste from its products.

 – If I was talking English and not electronics, would I say produce there? 

Although not quite so programmable, Energy put in lots of logic to allow the core to set-up automatic direct interactions between peripherals, and then go to sleep while they get on with whatever they have been told to do.

Anyway, back to Microchip’s new babies.

Along with the programmable logic comes a complementary waveform generator and a numerical oscillator.

I was thinking sine wave when I read that first name, but it turns out to be a way of producing non-overlapping pulse waveforms with a lot of control over the dead band (both outputs low) timing for switching power supplies.

My recollection is that this is already available in Microchip’s enhanced capture-compare block, but obviously not – or maybe it is a simpler route to the same end.

The oscillator is another thing that looks like it does something already done by the enhanced capture-compare block.

Microchip said it allows linear frequency control and high resolution, which is required for applications such as lighting ballast, tone generation and other resonant control circuits. 

So I assume it can be configured as part of a loop to keep resonance on the boil by tweaking output frequency.

Maybe I should spend some time with my nose in an app note.

Ah ha, I have found a neat brochure that sums it all up  

The actual part numbers are PIC10F(LF)32x and 1xF(LF)150x, and the firm is thinking of applications in small kitchen appliances, car interior lighting, power tools, and utility meters


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One comment

  1. very tempting stuff! One thing in the brochure that confused me was the statement “can do everything a 555 can do”. Seems like an odd boast for a sophisticated digital device. Still, I do feel compelled to get a development kit for these little beauties and find an excuse to use a few!

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