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Micro-Windmill Surprise

It’s one of those good problems.

You’ve been doing some exploratory MEMS work. Your main focus is biomedical – implants for dealing with prostate cancer. Silicon is too brittle, so you do some exploration with a foundry to experiment with different structures and materials. A nickel alloy looks interesting – more forgiving than silicon (at the expense of a lower Young’s modulus). And there’s some extra space on the die.

One a whim, you and a co-researcher half-jokingly discuss putting a windmill on there. During the discussion, … Read More → "Micro-Windmill Surprise"

Two New Pointing Mechanisms. Or One?

Some of you may have come to this link already; if you did, you read a piece that voiced some confusion about the positioning of two new products from PointGrab. I had tried to do what I could with the information at the time, but I remained confused. Since then I have gotten much more specific information, and so the questions are removed, and I have redone what follows to explain more clearly what’s going on.

You may recall that my discussion with PointGrab last … Read More → "Two New Pointing Mechanisms. Or One?"

Invensense Microphone Skips a Step

The number of microphone output options just got bigger by one.

Typically, there have been analog microphones, where you get a real-deal audio signal to play with, or digital microphones. The question is, for the digital versions, what does that mean? How are the 1s and 0s to be interpreted?

Says Invensense, up to their latest release, all digital microphones take the audio signal, digitize it, and then run that signal into a codec that creates a PDM signal. For anyone not steeped in this stuff (including yours truly), PDM is “pulse density modulation.& … Read More → "Invensense Microphone Skips a Step"

Ten years and rolling

Ten years ago today the Mars Rover Opportunity bounced its way on to the surface of Mars, at the start of a three month mission. In that time, as well as driving 24 miles, the little machine has added enormously to our understanding of the history of the planet.

And this is a huge endorsement of the team who put together the electronics. The development process started nearly twenty years ago, and by the time the mission launched most of the electronics used was, to put it kindly, mature. The central processor is a 32 bit Rad 6000 microprocessor, a … Read More → "Ten years and rolling"

TSensors Roadmap Takes Shape

Last fall, an effort was started to drive the MEMS business (or sensors in general) to the point where a trillion sensors are shipped yearly. We covered the TSensors event, and we promised to update.

As a quick recap, the approach here is to identify high-yield applications and then focus in on those to remove barriers (largely, but not exclusively, cost). So the current process is to establish what those applications are going to be, and then have a chairperson for each application driving … Read More → "TSensors Roadmap Takes Shape"

Harvesting Microwaves

We have just looked at an approach to wireless power transfer using low MHz electromagnetic field oscillations. But such a concept is only “power transfer” if the whole reason for the signal in the first place is to transfer power. If such a signal exists for some other reason – like communications – then doing the exact same thing wouldn’t be power transfer: It would be energy harvesting.

And indeed folks are trying to harvest energy out of all … Read More → "Harvesting Microwaves"

Haptics in a Microcontroller?

TI caught my eye when they released a microcontroller that they said was “haptics-enabled.” A few seconds of thought convinced me that this concept needed some unpacking.

Haptics is all about devices providing feedback through some kind of touch mechanism. It could be as passive as raised bumps telling you that your fingers are in the right place, or it could be through vibrations or other active events that you can feel. It’s a hot topic, one we’ll … Read More → "Haptics in a Microcontroller?"

What Might Make an Accelerometer More Robust?

Last month STMicroelectronics announced a new accelerometer “engineered to withstand stresses of modern mobile life.” They see those stresses arising from increasingly thinner phones and the mechanical and thermal challenges they cause. They called out board bending as a particular challenge to the mechanical integrity of the works inside the accelerometer package.

So how do you improve the mechanical structure of the accelerometer to do this? First, it helps to realize that there are two structures in ST’s accelerometers. One operates in-plane and provides both x and y acceleration information. A separate structure … Read More → "What Might Make an Accelerometer More Robust?"

An Environmental Sensor

The sensor market is highly fragmented. Many sensor companies are good at one or a few sensors based on super-secret ways they have of building them. When combining with other sensors for things like IMUs, they may actually bring in partners for sensors they don’t make themselves, and they may use sensor fusion software from yet another company.

Bosch Sensortec has been taking a different tack, however. As one of the two really big sensor guys, it’s taking the “you don’t need anyone else” approach, doing a wide variety of its own sensors and … Read More → "An Environmental Sensor"

Net Neutrality Takes a Hit

Imagine that a private company creates a public toll road. This actually happens, so it’s not a crazy idea. In exchange for building and maintaining the road, the company gets to collect tolls. That’s the monetization model.

Of course, once that’s in place, that company (or, more likely, its shareholders) might randomly decide that they simply deserve (or want) more money. So they do a deal with a specific car manufacturer. Now the tolls will be higher for cars that aren’t made by that company. Then they do a … Read More → "Net Neutrality Takes a Hit"

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