Technology Watch

New Electronics' Technology Watch section focuses specifically on the latest technological developments within the electronics sector. Whether innovative new design or theoretical concepts, our Technology Watch articles will keep you informed of advances within the electronics industry.

Lithography the biggest roadblock to Moore’s Law

After years of cheating death, the use of conventional optical lithography for defining the features on integrated circuits looks to be running out of steam. Even extremely large amounts of computational processing to alter masks cannot push lithography based on 193nm deep ultraviolet light much further. The search is on for another way to support the move from 28nm processes to 20nm within a year or two.

Seeking perfection: The growing role of verification in SoC design

Verification has consumed the lion's share of the time and cost in chip design for at least the past decade. The reason is clear: once the design has 'taped out' – even though no-one has actually sent a layout on tape for years – it's gone. Only when you get the silicon back do you find out whether you have a working device or the source material for some attractive pendants. Verification is the one thing you have to determine how successful the project will be before it's too late.

Power without responsibility: The challenges involved in energy harvesting

You can find out a lot about an electric motor simply by moving it. The vibrations produced don't just result in an irritating noise; they can also provide a handy guide to the motor's health. If you attach an intelligent sensor to the motor, you can maintain a constant watch on its health at little ongoing cost. The problem is powering them, even though they are close to a large energy source in the form of mains electricity.

DRAM refresher: Problems the technology is set to encounter

Ten years after being asked to pen a short article on trends for the magazine Electronics in 1965, Intel's Gordon Moore was invited to the International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM) to provide an update. His expansion of the original article, in effect, became the core of 'Moore's Law', as circuit design researcher Carver Mead later tagged it.

Chip design discovery is easier than you think

The inscrutable black surface of a chip does not seem to give much information away much to the observer. But information on what is inside is just waiting to leak out, despite secrecy supposedly being an important competitive weapon in electronics.

Flash remains undisputed non volatile memory leader

If you were to draw up a list of properties for the ideal non-volatile memory, you probably would not start with those associated with flash. Flash is power-hungry, particularly when it comes to writes; it wears out; it's hard to integrate with logic circuitry; and you cannot erase and rewrite a single bit at a time.

EMC legislation continues to evolve

The flurry of activity and worry that heralded the implementation of the EMC Directive has been followed by 15 years of relative calm, even though the legislation received a significant update about five years ago. Neither have there been the large number of prosecutions anticipated, although one initiated by an enforcement project driven by the Department of Trade and Industry in the early 2000s highlighted a flaw in the legislation.

Practical applications for metamaterials beyond the invisibility cloak

In the late 1960s, Russian physicist Victor Veselago pondered whether two key electromagnetic properties could ever be negative. In conventional materials, permeability and permittivity are always positive. But he proposed that if both permeability and permittivity were negative, so too would the refractive index of that medium.

Designing for extreme temperatures

For decades, electronics design has relied on the temperatures inside a system never getting too far away from room temperature, even when those devices are specified for military applications. In practice, few devices are ever expected to work at -55°C or more than 125°C even; in fact, many fail to function below freezing.

Implications for interface design when software and hardware disagree

When Toyota was forced to recall thousands of its vehicles after a spate of accidents and unexplained surges in acceleration, suspicion soon fell on the electronic controllers and the software that ran on them. US transportation officials drafted in engineers from NASA to work out why Toyota cars would suddenly hit the gas.

Power transistor designers find innovative ways to boost ratings and density

In the world of low power semiconductors, everything seems so simple. Transistors divide cleanly into two families that seem to have little in common, other than the materials they use. There is the bipolar transistor, as developed by William Shockley at Bell Labs in the early 1950s; and there is the more successful metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor (MOSFET), based on the earlier ideas of Julius Lilienfield.

Why timing is everything when writing embedded software

Real time scheduling is one of the trickiest areas for any embedded designer to tackle. Superficially, it is simple: make sure every task with a deadline hits that deadline. But there are plenty of factors that can affect whether this happens reliably or just when things are going well.

Power saving with more accurate ac motor control

Electric motors in the developed world are consuming an enormous amount of energy. According to a report prepared in 2002 by Steven Nadel and colleagues at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), more than half of the electricity produced in the US flows through motors.

Multicore processors: How can you programme them?

Chipmakers want you to buy multicore processors that, on paper at least, deliver much greater performance than their single core predecessors. The question is: can you make use of that performance? Parallelisation is not all that easy to say and it's usually harder to do, but things are getting better.

Multicore processors: Some of the technical issues

When, in the mid 1960s, founder Gordon Moore noticed how quickly transistors were shrinking on silicon wafers, he concentrated purely on how much space circuits would take up over time. A few corrections ensued as the frenetic pace of development of the early 1970s settled down to the long term trend: a doubling in functional density every two years.

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