Tuesday, September 18, 2012

X - The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries : Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons

Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons


Even if Curiosity doesn't, say, run into a puddle, there are still ways for it to discover water on Mars. Cosmic rays constantly hit the planet's surface, knocking neutrons out of orbit. Hydrogen atoms in water or ice will slow those neutrons down, and that can be detected.
A pulsing neutron generator called the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) can detect water content as small as one-tenth of 1 percent. DAN will send a beam of neutrons into the surface, three to six feet into the ground; if it detects a large amount of slower neutrons, that's decent evidence there's water underneath.

Click to see more

Friday, August 17, 2012

IX - The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries : The Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument

The Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Goddard Space Flight Center

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument is the technology behemoth of the Mars Rover Curiosity mission. A suite of three instruments, it makes up more than half of the scientific payload of Curiosity, and focuses on striking gold by finding evidence of life on Mars. The mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph, and tunable laser spectrometer inside can find compounds of carbon, such as methane, while also searching for lighter elements that might also indicate life, like hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.
The mass spectrometer will separate elements by mass, the gas chromatograph will vaporize samples using heat to analyze them, and the laser spectrometer will measure how much of various isotopes are in the samples. Accurate to within 10 parts per thousand, it may be the best chance Curiosity has of discovering life--past or present.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

VIII - The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries : Chemistry and Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction Instrument

Chemistry and Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction Instrument


Mars Rover Curiosity's mission isn't just one that represents the future of space tech; it's also about uncovering the history of Mars. Minerals can be a strong indication of what the planet looked like as it was forming. Certain minerals, for example, may indicate that lava once flowed near a certain area. The chemistry and Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction Instrument (CheMin) will be able to find and analyze those and a whole lot more.
Curiosity will be able to drill into rocks and collect a powder, then store it internally. CheMin will shoot tiny X-rays at the rock or soil sample; when they interact with it, some are absorbed and re-emitted at different energies. By calculating those energies, CheMin will be able to determine the atoms present in the sample.
What minerals they discover might also hint at how much of a role water played in forming the planet's minerals. Certain minerals contain water, and CheMin can tell the difference between those and the waterless variety. It might even clue scientists in on if Mars could have once supported life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

VII - The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries : Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer

Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Max Planck Institut für Chemie/University of Guelph

To get an accurate analysis of samples on Mars, the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) works up close. When it makes contact with a rock or soil sample, it'll bombard it with alpha particles and X-rays emitted as the element curium, placed inside, decays. The rays knock electrons from the sample out of orbit, and the energy released can be measured by sensors. This much energy, you've got sodium. Count again, and you've got something else.
It works day and night, but can take a little while to get a thorough analysis: as long as two to three hours to determine all of the elements that a sample contains, although 10 minutes is enough to see the major elements at a glance.

Monday, August 13, 2012

VI - The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries : The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station


In addition to being a great geologist, The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will make Mars Rover Curiosity into a great cosmic meteorologist. In daily and seasonal reports, REMS will send scientists information on atmospheric pressure, humidity, UV radiation, wind speed and direction, air temperature, and ground temperature.
Two booms will monitor wind speed, helping us to understand how breezes and one of the biggest weather phenomena on Mars, dust, operate. An inner sensor exposed to the atmosphere will catalogue changes in pressure caused by changes in the weather, and a filter keeps all the unwanted dust out.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

V - The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries : Mars Hand Lens Imager

Mars Hand Lens Imager


Sometimes, the tech of mere mortals can stand up to an uber geologist like Curiosity. The hand lens, for example, is an important, commonly used geological tool. And the Mars rover will be carrying its own robotic version on board.
The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) will help give an extremely close view of samples to scientists back at home. Extremely close: MAHLI will be able to take color images as small as 12.5 micrometers (less than human hair size). A traditionally white, flashlight-type light source and an ultraviolet, black light source will allow it to work day and night. The UV light also has an ulterior function: it can light up samples to detect carbonate and evaporite minerals, which would be evidence that water helped form Mars.

IV - The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries: ChemCam



Maybe the most futuristic of Curiosity's tools, the ChemCam is an analyzing laser. By pointing it at areas as small as 1 millimeter, Curiosity will be able to determine the elemental composition of vaporized materials. A spectrograph will monitor the plasma created from zapping rocks and soil, then analyze its geological structure.
It can be used in another handy way, too: the laser can clear away dust, allowing for much more detailed photographs, and if Curiosity can't get close enough to take a closer look at a piece of Mars, ChemCham can do it from 23 feet away. From that distance, it's still able to learn the type of rock in a sample, the composition of soil, if a sample contains chemicals harmful to humans, and if it contains water or ice.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

III - The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries: MEDLI


Lockheed Martin

Engineers have a lot to worry about during Curiosity's descent through the atmosphere--as advertised by their "seven minutes of terror" video. But during that descent, Curiosity will already be working, gathering data for the next set of missions to Mars.
The MSL Entry, Descent and Landing Instrumentation (MEDLI) will monitor the heat and pressure it undergoes upon entry. It's actually made up of two kinds of instruments: MISP (MEDLI Integrated Sensor Plugs) and MEADS (Mars Entry Atmospheric Data System). Seven of each type sit on Curiosity's heat shield. (The system is the black box in the left of the photo.)
MISP will measure just how hot things get when it's burning through the atmosphere. (Short answer: really hot. Slightly less short answer: three times hotter than a space shuttle going through Earth's atmosphere.) Curiosity's thermal protection system will actually burn off, and MISP will measure the rate of burning, known as "recession."
MEADS will take a measurement of the atmospheric pressure during descent. Arranged in a cross pattern, the seven sensors will allow engineers to determine Curiosity's orientation as a function of time. Once they know that, they can grade Curiosity's descent against their predictions, then improve them for next time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

II- The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries : Radiation Assessment Detector

Radiation Assessment Detector


Curiosity itself doesn't mind radiation all that much. But the human explorers we plan to one day send to Mars might be a little more picky about the stuff. So as one of the few tools sent to Mars to prepare for human exploration, the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) has an important job. About the size of a small toaster, the device will look into the Martian atmosphere and use a stack of silicon detectors and a crystal of cesium iodide to measure cosmic rays and solar particles. As high-energy charged particles from the atmosphere head through the detectors, they produce electron or light pulses, allowing the RAD to determine their energy. The process could also tell us more about how radiation might have once hindered the development of life on Mars.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I- The Ten Instruments Mars Rover Curiosity Carries : Mastcam Camera

Mastcam Camera

NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

The Mast Camera, also known as the Mastcam, isn't the first camera ever strapped to a rover, but it could easily be the most advanced. On board Curiosity, it'll take color images and video, and be able to stitch the images together to create beautiful panoramas of the red planet's canyon-scapes. It features high-resolution lenses and will be able to take HD video at 10 frames per second, while a monochromatic setting can take single-color images to help analyze light patterns in different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
It's a lot of information, but it comes packaged with an internal data buffer that can store thousands of images--or hours of HD video--to send back to Earth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

University of Texas at Austin team wins robot soccer world championships in 2 divisions

The UT Austin Villa RoboCup Team (pink) plays at the 2012 Robot Soccer World Cup in Mexico City. Credit: The University of Texas at Austin
UT Austin Villa, a team of computer science students led by professor Peter Stone, won two 2012 Robot Soccer World Cup division championships during RoboCup 2012 last week in Mexico City.
The annual tournament, founded in 1997 to foster innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) and , is often touted as the world's biggest robotics and  event.
Though the competition is fun, the AI research that is required to compete could someday lead to enhanced bomb-searching robots; autonomous cars that increase traveling efficiency and reduce automobile accidents; self-healing, smart computers; and AI agents that manage business supply chains more effectively than humans.
UT Austin Villa defended its 2011 3D Simulation League title, featuring artificially  that compete in simulated soccer games.
For the first time in university history, the Texas team also won the RoboCupSoccer Standard Platform League (SPL) competition — one of the highest profile leagues at RoboCup.
RoboCupSoccer SPL consists of teams using state-of-the-art, fully autonomous, humanoid Nao robots. Because the robots are standardized, teams concentrate on software development and programming the robots to "think" and play the game.
"I'm incredibly proud of the students for the great work that they put in, and especially the great research behind the success that made it all possible," said Stone, a professor in the Department of Computer Science.
The Texas SPL team blew through its first round robin games and quarterfinal, winning each by at least a 4-goal margin, and won a nail-biter in the semifinals to go on to compete against the University of Bremen in Germany, the undefeated champions three years in a row. In the championship game, the Texas team took on an early 2-0 lead in the first half, claiming victory by a final score of 4-2.
UT Austin Villa's SPL team includes Stone, doctoral students Todd Hester, Sam Barrett, Katie Genter, Piyush Khandelwal and Jake Menashe, and master's student Yuchen He. The simulation team consisted of Stone, doctoral student Patrick MacAlpine and undergraduates Adrian Lopez-Mobilia and Nick Collins.
"In some sense, my team has been working toward this since I founded UT Austin Villa back in 2003," said Stone. "We are savoring the success of this RoboCup competition!"
Via: PhysOrg.com

Monday, June 25, 2012

Volkswagen Touareg part 2

Lane assist is also included in this pack, scanning the road ahead and warning you if you drift out of lane. It's a useful extra, but it doesn't automatically keep the car in the right lane, which rival systems, such as those on the new Ford Focus, do.
Front assist uses a radar sensor to monitor the traffic in front, letting the car maintain a constant distance behind the vehicle in front up to the speed limit that you set. It works really well and is easy to adjust, both for speed and distance, using the control stalk to the left of the steering wheel. The system can't be used to automatically apply the brakes in an emergency though, which is a shame as Ford has this on the new Focus.

You can easily adjust the cruise control speed and the distance to follow the vehicle in front at.
Parking sensors are fitted as standard to the front and rear, making parking such a big beast much easier, particularly in small spaces in London.
The clear parking sensor display makes it easy to part this large vehicle, even in tight spots.

They can be activated to come on automatically, but this can be annoying in some situations. Driving through rush hour traffic in London we were constantly bombarded with beeps as the parking sensors activated automatically by cyclists zooming behind us. Switching the system off so that it's only activated by putting the car in reverse is pretty easy thanks to the central touchscreen control system, plus there's a dedicated button to activate the system.
You can manually enable the parking sensors if you don't want them to turn on automatically.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Volkswagen Touareg

For its updated Touareg, VW has focussed on making the big 4x4 a comfortable drive on the road, backed up by all of the latest hi-tech kit to make it a luxurious drive. For the most part, it has to be said that VW's done a great job.
The high driving position and comfortable leather seats combined with the spacious cabin make even the longest journeys an exercise in relaxed luxury. It helps that VW has designed the Touareg for road journeys, with it stable and comfortable through tight bends. A rotating switch in front of the gearbox lets you adjust the ride for Comfort, Normal and Sports mode, helping you get the most from your driving mood and type of surface that you're on.
We road tested the 4.2-litre V8, which is certainly no slouch and will hit 60mph in under six seconds. It should come as no surprise that this monster engine provides plenty of power for fast acceleration, while overtaking, even at speed, is easy. There's also a 3.0-litre engine available, which still packs plenty of punch, but improves on fuel economy and puts the car in a lower tax bracket.
We found the eight-speed auto gearbox smooth, plus there's an optional Tiptronic addition, so you can manually take control of gear changes by flicking the gearstick forwards for up and back for down. For driving in traffic we're big fans of the Auto Hold feature, which automatically engages the handbrake if it senses the car's starting to role. Combined with the automatic gearbox, slow-moving traffic is a breeze to drive through.

Auto-hold means you can drive the Touareg through traffic with the greatest of ease.
One of the issues of driving such a big car is visibility, particularly of other vehicles. VW has a range of systems designed to make driving safer for you and other road users. The Driver's Assistance pack (from £2,095) is the best option, getting you most of the kit that you could want.
It includes radar sensors for blind-spot elimination (Side scan lane assist). When turned on lights in the wing mirrors light up if there's another vehicle coming up behind you or in your blind spot. Indicate and the respective light flashes quickly to warn you. In short, provided you indicate, with this system pulling out on another car unaware should be a thing of the past.

Lights in the wing mirror warn you if there's another vehicle in your blind spot.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 Safety Features

The safety features found on the 2012 Mercedes Benz ML350 include the ability to avoid a rear end collision and detect if you're sleeping behind the wheel.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

IAR Systems provides development tools for the new low-power V850E2 microcontrollers from Renesas Electronics

Uppsala, Sweden—March 16, 2012, IAR Systems® announces complete support for the V850E2/Fx4-L microcontroller series from Renesas Electronics.

The V850E2/Fx4-L series features very low power consumption paired with high functionality. It is designed for the automotive comfort and body segment, for applications such as roof or window lifters, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), body control modules, and door, seat and light modules. These new microcontrollers provide power-saving features such as the sequencer (SEQ).

 The SEQ supports hardware monitoring of digital inputs in deep stop mode without any usage of the CPU or memory. When the SEQ detects activities at the digital inputs, the device switches from deep stop mode to run mode. Another feature is the LIN-master controller (LMA) which supports the automatic LIN-frame detection without CPU interactivity.

The highly-optimizing C/C++ compiler and debugger tool suite IAR Embedded Workbench® for V850 supplies extensive support for all devices in the V850, V850E, V850ES, and V850E2 families. The V850E2/Fx4-L microcontrollers are supported by IAR Embedded Workbench for V850 version 3.81, available today. This new release also adds support for Reneas E20 emulator, integration with the version control system Subversion, and new license features, such as commuter licenses, automatic license activation and support for virtual servers.
IAR Embedded Workbench is available for a variety of Renesas targets, in total more than 4.000 devices.

 IAR Systems is the largest independent vendor of development tools for Renesas microcontrollers, and is committed to continue to deliver high-performing, user-friendly tools for all Renesas microcontrollers.

To read more about IAR Embedded Workbench for V850, and to download evaluation versions, go to www.iar.com/ewv850.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

TI's new development kit helps engineers quickly and easily design Bluetooth® technology-enabled applications based on Stellaris® microcontrollers

Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) (NYSE: TXN) today announced the Stellaris® 2.4 GHz CC2560 Bluetooth® Wireless Kit (DK-EM2-2560B), aimed at jumpstarting Bluetooth®-enabled designs. The kit includes the high-throughput, power-efficient CC2560 Bluetooth solution and proven Bluetooth stack within StellarisWare® software. The performance and integration of Stellaris MCUs pair with TI´s leading Bluetooth solution to help developers address the demand for more streaming audio, remote control and data transfer in industrial and consumer applications. For complete details, visit www.ti.com/bt-kit-2560b-pr-tf. For a video demonstration, visit www.ti.com/bt-kt-pr-v.

With this offering, TI further expands its broad portfolio of complete microcontroller and wireless technology solutions, which includes 16- and 32-bit MCUs backed by ZigBee®, low-power wireless, RFID, and Bluetooth hardware and software. The Stellaris 2.4 GHz CC2560 Bluetooth Wireless Kit is modular and can be combined with the same Stellaris DK-LM3S9B96 Development Kit that serves as a baseboard for other Stellaris wireless solutions. When coupled with the DK- LM3S9B96 development board, the kit includes all hardware and software needed to jumpstart development. It also speeds the design process, as engineers are able to evaluate the working Bluetooth solution within 10 minutes or less using the included quick-start application.

What’s included in the Stellaris 2.4 GHz CC2560 Bluetooth Wireless Kit
·         StellarisWare® software, including peripheral driver library and example source code
·         Bluetopia® Bluetooth stack – developed by Stonestreet One and licensed, delivered and supported by TI – which includes the Serial Port Profile (SPP), Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) and Audio Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) with sample applications

·         Stellaris DK-LM3S9B96-EM2 Expansion Board
·         PAN1323 Bluetooth v2.1 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) Module
·         TI eZ430 USB emulator with Bluetooth target board and plastic cover
·         Battery board
·         Two AAA batteries
·         Earbud headphones
·         StellarisWare® CD

Features and benefits of the Stellaris 2.4 GHz CC2560 Bluetooth Wireless Kit
Bluetooth 2.1 technology + EDR support
Best-in-class Bluetooth RF performance for robust, high-throughput wireless connection, extended range and better power efficiency
Complete, validated, certified, production-ready module (PAN1323 used for evaluation, PAN1315 or PAN1325 used for production)
Lower manufacturing and operating costs, save board space, ease certification, minimize RF expertise required
Sample applications for the Stellaris LM3S9000 series, with demos showing API usage provided in source code
Simplifies and reduces hardware and software development, allowing faster time-to-market

Price and availability
The Stellaris 2.4 GHz CC2560 Bluetooth Wireless Kit (DK-EM2-2560B) is priced at $199 US, and available to order today at www.ti.com/bt-kit-2560b-pr-es. The DK-LM3S9B96 is sold separately for $425 U.S., and available to order today at www.ti.com/bt-kit-9b96-pr-es.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fundamentals Of Low-Power Design

In the realm of design, the quest for low power continues ad infinitum as a primary goal. Yet low-power requirements place significant additional constraints on designs, constraints that ordinarily would be secondary or non-existent. Often, a simple oversight in the firmware executing on a part can substantially reduce battery life.

When on this quest, designers must ask—before writing any code, selecting components, or creating schematics—what “low power” means. Almost always, the answer is that it depends. For instance, it depends on the application, the typical use case, and a whole slew of tradeoffs involving cost, performance, size, and other factors.

Classifying Devices With Regards To Power
Classes of devices with vastly different power needs and power consumption profiles typically include:

• Rechargeable, battery-operated handheld devices: These devices, which often have a runtime measured in hours, are designed to be frequently recharged. They perform little or no processing when off, but significant processing when running. Portable media players and cellular phones fall into this category.

• Devices that spend most of their time in sleep/standby: Such devices have runtimes measured in weeks or months. There’s very little processing when the device is on, and it returns to sleep mode quickly. Most of the time, the device is in deep sleep or standby. These devices include IR/RF remote controls, portable test equipment, wireless keyboards, and blood-glucose meters.

• Devices that are barely alive: Runtimes for these devices are measured in months or years. Minutes, hours, or even days can elapse between short bursts of activity. They’re often found in remote monitoring applications. Utility metering and data loggers are two examples.

Means Of Measurement
So, how do you identify a low-power device? Once again, it depends. There are many ways to define and measure power consumption. Any datasheet, product brief, or application note for a low-power microcontroller comes replete with a colorful assortment of specifications. Common specs include MIPS/watt, mA/MHz, low-power run-mode current consumption, and sleep-mode current consumption.

No single specification tells the whole story, and the actual performance depends heavily on the use case. For instance, a device with a great mA/MHz specification might have an unacceptable sleep-mode current. What’s more, the functionality in each of these sleep modes may not even be easy to quantify. Does the part have any timers active in the mode of interest? Does it keep the contents of RAM? Comparing apples to apples here is an effort unto itself.

Power-Saving Techniques
Despite the myriad product specifications, requirements, and design constraints, much can still be done in any design to minimize power consumption. The following standard techniques can help save power on most modern microcontrollers and processors:

Eliminating Parasitic Peripherals
Since many microcontrollers come out of reset with peripherals enabled, disabling unused peripherals will save a significant amount of power. Often, this is simply a matter of clock gating; turning off the clock to a peripheral will completely eliminate its power consumption. In some situations, though, a more sinister power sink lurks in the bowels of peripherals, a.k.a., quiescent current.

In applications that demand deep sleep and maximize every nanoampere, the peripherals’ quiescent-current consumption becomes vital. Analog peripherals such as comparators and analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) are good examples where clock gating alone won’t suffice when powering down the peripheral.
1. This excerpt from Freescale’s MC9S08QE32 datasheet for the analog comparator peripheral illustrates how leaving the comparator on isn’t a good idea.
The specs shown in Figure 1 were lifted from datasheets for Freescale’s Flexis QE series low-power microcontrollers. On the Flexis QE32, the comparator’s power consumption falls in the 20- to 30-µA range. This may not seem like a lot, but considering that the deepest power-down current consumption on the device measures 350 nA (at VDD = 3 V), leaving that comparator on isn’t a viable option.
Configuring Unused I/O
Unused I/O can be a major source of unwanted power consumption if it’s left configured as an input. In standard CMOS logic, power consumption occurs only when switching states from on to off and vice versa. Floating inputs will cause unintentional switching. The best way to handle unused I/O is to set it as an output when power must be saved, i.e., in a power-down or low-power run mode.
From a board-level perspective, it’s important to consider the lowest power state of the circuit connected to the pin. For example, if the pin is pulled up or down externally, set the output to the value corresponding to VDD or ground, respectively.
Remember, in this scenario unused I/O isn’t limited to the I/O that’s never used. Any time a peripheral or a set of I/O isn’t necessary, it can be reconfigured as an output on-the-fly. This is generally a good idea when entering a low-power mode of operation that works with limited functionality. Dedicated analog inputs must be treated carefully at the board level, as they can be input-only pins with input impedances in the tens of kilohms.
Run-Mode Clock Throttling
In applications featuring a device operating in active mode, where the CPU is enabled and processing for extended periods of time, it makes sense to carefully evaluate the performance/power tradeoff. For instance, low-power applications rarely require blazing-fast speed. Usually, the CPU performs some rudimentary calculations on data or manages peripheral interaction with the outside world.

2. This excerpt from Texas Instruments’ MSP430F2132 datasheet lists the run-mode current for various CPU clock frequencies.
At times, the CPU needs to be on, but its role is limited. Here, lots of power can be saved by throttling its clock down to a level where it efficiently processes data without becoming idle. An excerpt from the Texas Instruments MSP430F2132 microcontroller datasheet illustrates this point, listing the active-mode current consumption at various CPU clock frequencies (Fig. 2).
Taking Advantage of Bursty Operation
On the other side of the CPU throttling coin, bursty operation for processing and data acquisition offers another good opportunity to save power. The principle behind this technique involves minimizing the time in an active mode of operation. It may be unintuitive, but performing the tasks that consume lots of static current for a shorter period of time can be more power-efficient than doing so for a longer period of time at lower power. This applies equally well to CPU run modes and high-power peripherals such as ADCs.

3. Shown is the active-mode current consumption versus processing time for two hypothetical microcontrollers: an eight-bit CPU (a) and a 32-bit device (b).
The burst-mode principle for processing data can be elucidated further by comparing power consumption between 8-bit and 32-bit hypothetical devices (Fig. 3). Both wake up with the same periodicity to acquire and process data. Because the 32-bit device (right) can complete the processing task faster, it’s out of its high-power mode quicker when the sleep interval and data-to-process remains constant. Also, note the difference in the baseline power consumption, with the 8-bit device having the lower of the two. The area under the curve represents total energy consumption. Therefore, the lower-power run-mode on the 8-bit device (left) isn’t necessarily an advantage.
Data-acquisition tasks from peripherals follow this principle, too. Turning on an ADC for short periods of time, only when needed, minimizes the time it’s actively consuming current. Interleaving the data acquisition and the processing tasks will result in more efficient power usage.
Low-power, low-frequency clock sources can be employed to manage sleep/wakeup cycles. Such a timer comes standard on most modern microcontrollers. If not available, then highly accurate and low-power 32.768-kHz watch crystals are an ideal substitute.

Hardware and software design for low power is application-specific. The key part of the process is to become intimately familiar with your product and its intended use case(s) before making any major design decisions.
Most of the design process depends on factors that change with each project. However, following some basic strategies, such as using power only when needed, managing parasitic peripherals, and being careful about clocking, can effectively minimize power consumption.

Engineer from Cornell University: sudoglove

Friday, February 10, 2012

Siemens and BMW believe in Wireless EV charging station

Electric cars (EV) now fall in short-term production plans of most of the car manufacturers. It is a news of these days, in fact, the market expected at the end of the year (at an estimated price of less than 7000 euros) of the Renault Twizy, a zero-emissions two-seater equipped with a 20 hp electric motor, battery life of around 100 km, and charging time of approximately 3 hours and a half. Just charging seems to be one of the troubles of these new-generation cars, ecological, yes, but forcing the user to adopt new habits with regard to refueling operations.
Some European countries (one of these is the Netherlands) have already endorsed projects to create ad hoc service stations specifically equipped to perform the rapid charging of the next coming electric cars. The evolution is however still at an early stage, so the only valid alternative, for now, is to have a garage or parking space with electrical outlet to be able to recharge batteries when the vehicle is not used and by using the appropriate electrical wiring (the equivalent of the "gun" in the traditional gas station). Actually, there is already today a technology that can fully address this problem, a technology that harnesses the wireless power transmission to charge the batteries without requiring ing any electrical connections.

The first practical applications of this technology have been achieved by HaloIPT, a company founded as a spin-out of Auckland University. HaloIPT was the first company in the world capable of marketable wireless charging systems for electric vehicles. These systems are based on the IPT (Inductive Power Transfer) technique, that exploits the physical mechanism of electromagnetic induction to transfer (or rather, to induce) a power supply at a short distance. At the recent Hannover Fair (now the largest industrial trade fair in the world), Siemens and BMW presented their own system for wireless recharging of electric vehicles, based on the same principle, namely electromagnetic induction.
If this technology will take hold, future electric cars will no longer need cumbersome and annoying cables for charging. Contactless technology also provides another significant advantage: the charging stations will be able to be installed almost anywhere (the housing is made under the soil), effectively making them almost invisible and protected from vandals and wear. The project was funded by the Ministry of the Environment of Germany, and a first test has been scheduled for next June 2011 in Berlin, with the use of different types of vehicles. The inductive charging system developed by Siemens allows charging even for short stops, making the charging process less costly in terms of duration. An example is provided by cabs, used to stand for long periods in the special lanes reserved for them: these stops could be used to carry out a battery recharging operation in a transparent way, working in "background".

The system consists of a primary coil placed completely below the ground, connecting the contactless charging station with the power supply (mains). The electric current through the coil creates nearby an electromagnetic field, which generates, by induction, a current in the secondary coil, placed at a distance of 8-15 cm from the primary coil and installed aboard the electric or hybrid car. The secondary coil, in turn, allows thus to recharge the battery. The theoretical efficiency of this system was estimated to be at least 90%, but we must wait until next May, when a 3.6-kW prototype will be thoroughly tested. The system is designed and installed so that the electromagnetic field generated interest only to a well determined area between the two coils. By law, it must meet international standards, which recommend an upper limit for the generated electromagnetic field equal to 6.25 microtesla. Siemens has ensured that the intensity of the electromagnetic field generated by their system meets this requirement, so there is no risk to health. In addition, the charging stations will be able to use the surplus energy produced by solar panels or wind systems, thus minimizing the impact on the environment.

The system designed by Siemens in cooperation with BMW will be tested and verified in practice over the coming months so that designers will be able to do the required changes and improvements to it. We should also recall that BMW strongly believes in the future of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid cars. With respect to this topic, they recently announced the creation of a new brand of models (identified by the letter "i") with the aim to offer the most advanced solutions for future mobility. In 2013 it is expected the launch of the models BMW i3 (a compact city car, also called as "Megacity"), and BMW i8 (a sportcar with a winning design). The BMW i3, visible in the drawing below, will be equipped with an electric motor with rated power of 100kW and aims to have minimal impact on the environment, with extensive use of carbon fiber materials to reduce weight and increase the rigidity of the vehicle.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Corning's A Day Made of Glass 2 gives us a window into the future

Before Microsoft bamboozled us with its vision of the future, Gorilla Glass maker Corning blew our socks off with its A Day Made of Glass video.

The YouTube phenomenon (17 million views and counting) gave us a glimpse of the world of tomorrow and was so attractive because it all seemed so possible, as many of the technologies on show have already been developed and are just waiting to hit our homes and streets.
And now we've had to spend another 5 or so minutes with our jaw on the floor as A Day Made of Glass 2 has been released.

According to its makers, the sequel "extends the ideas, applications, and interfaces introduced in the original video into new arenas – including healthcare and education – continuing the story of how highly engineered glass, with companion technologies, will help shape our world".
According to us, it's just bloomin' brilliant. How can you not love a bit of AR Jurassic Park action, or the fact that a doctor can literally drag a patient's brain around?

There's also an extended version of the video that gives a bit of extra detail on the technologies used in the action.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Does the World Need a New Microcontroller Family?

Everywhere you look there are microcontrollers. 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit; high speed or low power; single or multi-core; and an enormous range of peripherals and I/O. So does the world need another family?  Infineon certainly thinks so.
Their reasoning runs like this. Over the last few years the company has been restructured to concentrate on three key areas, which it calls Energy Efficiency, Mobility and Security. In these areas it addresses specific markets, where it is either the largest player, or number two, with microcontrollers, power components and sensors.
The current microcontroller line-up is headed by the TriCore family. (This has 28% of the 32-bit automotive embedded market, and the claim is that almost every second car has a TriCore. It is also widely used in industrial applications.) Backing this are multiple families of 16-bit microcontrollers, designed around the proprietary C166 core, and 8051-compatible 8-bit controllers. There is a significant performance gap between the fastest members of the 16-bit families and the slowest of the TriCores, and this gap is what Infineon is now bridging with its latest announcement.
The intention is to provide a microcontroller that will find applications in controlling industrial drives, in renewable energy and in industrial automation. This requires high computer performance, mixed signal capacity, connectivity, both within and outside the system, and, usually, complex software. Infineon claims that the XMC4000 meets all these needs, and more.
The first surprise is that, after decades of developing its own processor architectures, the new family is based on the ARM Cortex-M4. While ARM is very widespread in microcontrollers, this is a definite change. Infineon people would not be drawn in to give too much detail about future plans, but they did say that the TriCore will continue, as it is particularly well suited for safety-critical applications. They gave the impression that they haven’t ruled out further ARM-based microcontrollers, and the implication was that these would be replacing/supplementing/whatever the 16-bit products.
The public reason for choosing ARM is the massive ecosystem that is available for ARM products. And, speculating, a secondary reason must be that paying ARM is a lot cheaper, and easier, than developing a new architecture.
Around the core is a wide selection of peripherals. Some are standards-based, such as Ethernet and USB; some are Infineon implementations of general functions, such as ADC and DAC, memory interfaces and CAN bus; and there are also “Infineon state-of-the-art” implementations, such as capacitive touch controllers, a real time clock, and memories. The road map shows a fairly typical matrix of clock speed, memory - both flash and SRAM, and packaging options. Unusually the clock speed is measured at 125ºC, rather than the lower temperatures normal for industrial parts. This is because, in applications like motor control, the microcontroller will be mounted directly on the motor, where temperatures can run very high.
A particular example that was discussed in the launch presentation was inverter control in applications like electric drives and photovoltaic connections to the grid. In both cases the inverter takes in DC and outputs AC. The XMC4000 family typically has 4 fast (3.5 million samples/sec) 12-­bit ADC modules and a ΔΣ demodulator. This allows processing to be carried out off the CPU and removes the need for an extra interface IC. A connection matrix can be set up in software to create direct connections between peripherals.
One unusual feature is the provision of up to six serial channels, whose function, (UART, SPI, I2C etc) is defined in software.
These two examples bring us neatly to the development environment. The XMC4000 is supported by the third generation of DAVE (Digital Application virtual Engineer), Infineon’s free IDE. DAVE is Eclipse-based (so it interworks with a wide range of other development tools) and comes with a free GNU compiler, a debugger, and a loader. The new version also includes a selection of apps for peripherals and applications, which are configured through a graphical user interface. When the apps are configured, DAVE generates code that can be used like a library through an API. Infineon expects that third parties and users will generate further apps.
There were simultaneous announcements from tools and middleware companies, with Atollic, IAR and Hitex all announcing support. And a slide in the presentation also named Altium, Wind River, Keil, iSystem, Lauterbach, Express Logic, Micrium and Segger as supporting the family. While most of these support the existing Infineon parts, the Cortex core makes it far easier for them to create XMC4000 specific products.
I have made a bit of a meal out of this announcement, as it can be seen as important for a number of reasons. Firstly it is another example of the way in which, despite several commentators’ views, ARM is still strengthening its hold in the microcontroller market. There are other cores around, often for niche markets, but ARM is still growing in the main stream. It also seems to me to be yet another blow for 16-bit controllers – their future is going to be even more limited as 8-bits continue to mop up low power and simple applications and 32-bit controllers offer more processing power at equivalent, or better, electrical power consumption. And finally it is an example of how the peripheral options are increasingly complex, moving from external chips to the controller core.

Friday, January 6, 2012

National Taiwan University Develops a Leg-Wheel Hybrid Mobile Robot Using LabVIEW

A team of mechanical engineers at National Taiwan University used NI LabVIEW and CompactRIO to built an energy-efficient leg-wheel hybrid mobile robot that can drive quickly and smoothly on flat terrain and can stably negotiate natural or artificial uneven terrain.

for more informations visit: http://bit.ly/evWKr0