editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Blue-Collar Sensors from Microchip

In our coverage of sensors, we’ve seen increasing levels of abstraction as microcontrollers in or near the sensors handle the hard labor of extracting high-level information from low-level info. These are the hipster sensors that go on the wearables that go on your person for a month and then go on your nightstand.

Today, however, we’re going to get grittier and more obscure. Some sensors have more of a blue-collar feel to them, and I discussed two examples with Microchip back at Sensors Expo.

The first is a current sensor. Specifically, a “high-side” current sensor, meaning it goes in series with the upper power supply rail (not the ground rail). It can report current, voltage, or power. The unusual thing about this unit (the PAC1921) is that it provides both analog and digital outputs. “Why?” you may ask…

So much has moved to digital because, well, data can be provided in an orderly fashion, queried as needed by inquiring processors. FIFOs and advanced processing are available in the digital realm, and if you’re maintaining a history of power supply performance, digital is a great way to keep that tally.

Digital does, however, introduce latency. If you’re sensing the current and using the result in your power management algorithm, a bit of latency means that… oh, say, the voltage gets too high and you measure that and then digitize it and then put it someplace for a processor to find and then – oh, now look at that mess! Analog works much more quickly in a control loop. So here you get both.

Current_sensor_figure.jpg 

(Image courtesy Microchip)

Then, off to a completely different unit: a temperature sensor. Well, actually, not the sensor itself, but the wherewithal to calculate temperature from a thermocouple.

Apparently our penchant for integration and abstraction has lagged in this corner of the world. While thermocouples can generate a voltage based on the temperature, calculating the precise temperature based on that voltage has been a discrete affair (not to be confused with a discreet affair). It requires lots of analog circuitry to measure the microvolt signal (typically done at a “cold” junction, away from the actual heat), digitize it, and then perform the math.

That math reflects the fact that thermocouples have a non-linear relationship between their output voltage and the temperature. And the details vary by thermocouple type. So this calculation is typically done in an external microcontroller.

This would make the new MCP9600 the first device fully integrated with all the bits needed to convert volts (from the thermocouple) into degrees Celsius. They refer to it as a thermocouple-conditioning IC, and it works for a wide range of thermocouple types (K, J, T, N, S, E, B and R for those of you keeping score).

 Thermocouple_figure.jpg

(Image courtesy Microchip)

You can find more in their respective announcements: current sensor here, thermocouple here. We now return you to your white-collar sensors, which appear to have moved on from latte to white wine…

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Jun 6, 2023
On June 1, Cadence president and CEO Anirudh Devgan rang the Nasdaq Stock Market opening bell in New York City to celebrate our 35th anniversary and our many accomplishments. Here are a few thoughts from KT Moore, vice president of Corporate Marketing, on this significant mil...
Jun 2, 2023
I just heard something that really gave me pause for thought -- the fact that everyone experiences two forms of death (given a choice, I'd rather not experience even one)....
Jun 2, 2023
Explore the importance of big data analytics in the semiconductor manufacturing process, as chip designers pull insights from throughout the silicon lifecycle. The post Demanding Chip Complexity and Manufacturing Requirements Call for Data Analytics appeared first on New Hor...

featured video

The Role of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Electronic Design

Sponsored by Cadence Design Systems

In this video, we talk to Paul Cunningham, Senior VP and GM at Cadence, about the transformative role of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) in electronic designs. We discuss the transformative period we are experiencing with AI and ML and how Cadence is revolutionizing how we design and verify chips through “computationalizing intuition” and building intuitive systems that learn and adapt to the world around them. With human lives at stake, reliability, and safety are paramount.

Learn More

featured paper

EC Solver Tech Brief

Sponsored by Cadence Design Systems

The Cadence® Celsius™ EC Solver supports electronics system designers in managing the most challenging thermal/electronic cooling problems quickly and accurately. By utilizing a powerful computational engine and meshing technology, designers can model and analyze the fluid flow and heat transfer of even the most complex electronic system and ensure the electronic cooling system is reliable.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

Industry 4.0: From Conception to Value Generation
Industry 4.0 has brought a lot of exciting innovation to the manufacturing and industrial factories throughout the world, but getting your next IIoT design from concept to reality can be a challenging process. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Adithya Madanahalli from Würth Elektronik and Amelia Dalton explore how Würth Elektronik can help you jump start your next IIoT design.
Apr 17, 2023
6,308 views