Supercapacitors for Low Power Wireless Networks

Posted May 28, 2009 by John Artiuch
Categories: Low Power Products

Supercapacitors can be used to give you the extra power burst you need to support wireless sensor nodes operating from low power energy sources or energy harvesters. A low-power energy source such as a 3V watch battery or a solar, heat or vibration-energy-harvesting module can usually supply the average power required for a wireless system, but may not be able to provide the peak power to transmit data over wireless networks such as IEEE 802.15.4 (Zigbee), 802.11 (WLAN) or GSM/GPRS.

Zigbee transmission (peak power 10 – 100mA) will shorten a 3V button battery’s life, and require a larger battery than would be necessary to support the average load power. Even worse, a 3V battery cannot support a GSM or GPRS transmission (peak power 1 – 2A) at all without some additional source of power.

The CAP-XX BritePower solution resolves these issues with a single-cell, thin-form supercapacitor that stores energy generated at low power by the battery or from the environment, and then delivers it in high power bursts for data collection and transmission. The below paper outlines innovative power architectures, showing designers how to use a single-cell CAP-XX supercapacitor rated at 2.7V in conjunction with a 3V energy source, instead of a larger and costlier dual-cell supercapacitor rated at 3V or more. Using a single-cell supercapacitor also reduces the leakage current of the power solution, thereby increasing battery life and reducing energy losses from environmental harvesting modules.

The technical paper is available at


Ultra Low Power RF Transceiver

Posted May 7, 2009 by John Artiuch
Categories: Low Power Products

This is a part that was mentioned in one of the comments on my blog. This transceiver from Zarlink Semiconductor specifies very low power operation. Has anyone worked with it?


ZL70250 Evaluation Kit

Low Power RF transceiver for Zigbee and ISM

Posted April 1, 2009 by John Artiuch
Categories: Low Power Products

Tags: , ,

Atmel has released a new RF transceiver for low power wireless applications. The AT86RF212 800/900MHz IEEE 802.15.4 radio has a receive mode current consumption of 9mA and 17mA in transmit mode with a power output level of 5dBm. The sleep mode current consumption is down to 0.2µA. The AT86RF212 performs extremely well, initial field test showed about a 6km link without the use of any external LNA’s or PA’s. A wide range of data rates are supported. In addition, security is handled by an AES 128bit onboard hardware engine. Atmel has created some common firmware solutions making it easier and faster to develop new applications. Take a look at the datasheets for full specs:


Low Power Design Seminars

Posted February 18, 2009 by John Artiuch
Categories: Tutorials

Tags: , ,

Freescale has partnered with design house Nuvation and is giving low power training experience. The seminars will help you reduce your power consumption, BOM cost, time–to–market. Design engineers looking for practical techniques for balancing the design challenges of portable product development are especially encouraged to attend. An understanding of embedded system design and “C” programming is beneficial.

Please take a look to check the locations and dates of the seminars:

Low Power Microcontroller

Low Power Microcontroller Seminars

MSP430 Solar Energy Harvester Development Tool

Posted January 30, 2009 by John Artiuch
Categories: Low Power Products

Tags: ,

TI has released the eZ430-RF2500-SEH development kit which incorporates the Cymbet EnerChip EH Solar Energy Harvesting module. The kit enables designers to create and operate an autonomous wireless sensor network right out of the box. All of the hardware, firmware and graphical user interface software are included in the kit. It looks like a great starting point for developing maintenance free sensor networks.


30 Picowatt Sleep Mode Microchip

Posted January 16, 2009 by John Artiuch
Categories: Research

Tags: ,

The Phoenix Processor developed by researchers at the University of Michigan can run on a watch battery for 263 years. The processor uses 10 times less power than comparable chips when active and 30,000 times less power in sleep mode. The processor is designed for sensor-based devices. Some applications include medical implants, environment monitors, structural integrity of buildings and bridges. The overall design was based around reducing sleep mode power consumption since in most application the sensor is a sleep 99 percent of the time. The processor runs on 0.5 Volts and in sleep mode consumes 30 picowatts. This is a very exciting development, which could open up the door for electronics to be used in applications that are currently purely mechanical due to the inconvenience of replacing batteries.

For more info: Phoenix Processor

Tiny low power mic amps

Posted December 9, 2008 by John Artiuch
Categories: Low Power Products

Tags: ,

When it comes to low-noise and low power microphone amplifiers Maxim is probably going to be on top of your list. The MAX9812 and MAX9813 amplifiers come in tiny packages and feature a 230uA supply current and only 100nA in shutdown mode. These amplifiers are great for compact applications such as cell phones. The specs include a 500kHz bandwidth, Rail-to-Rail® outputs, 100dB power-supply rejection ratio, a very low 0.015% THD + N, and a 20dB fixed-gain configuration that eliminates the need for external gain-setting components. They are available in a 2.7V to 3.6V range for PDA and cell phone applications and a 4.5V to 5.5V range for notebook and PC applications.