Analog Integration Is Saving Power

In Damian Anzaldo's recent Integration Nation post, Analog Integration Is Saving Planet Earth, he makes a case that analog integration can substantially reduce the raw materials consumed in electronic products. One of the discussion threads in the comments raised the question as to whether analog integration can save power, too.

The answer is yes! Below are four examples of integrated analog ICs that are significantly cutting power consumption in different applications. We are talking about saving tens of thousands of megawatt-hours here!

  • Using the MAX5882 wideband RF-DAC, cable OEMs are now able to design wideband Universal Edge QAMs that consume extremely low power. Unlike previous generations of narrowband Edge QAMs with power usages between 2.5 and 5 W/QAM, the newer designs operate with 0.5 W/QAM at capacity. At one of Maxim Integrated's customers, this 80 to 90 percent reduction in power accumulates to savings of 9 million kWh per year over its installed base of QAM channels. The unique design of wideband Universal Edge QAMs enabled by Maxim RF-DACs further lowers the total cost of ownership by reducing hub powering and cooling and wiring complexity.
  • Semiconductor companies like Maxim use automated test equipment (ATE) to test their parts. Maxim's MAX9979 and similar pin electronics ICs for ATE cut power in half compared to the previous generation, from 2 W/pin down to 1 W. With at least 10 million Maxim ATE pins in use 24 hours a day, every day, worldwide, this power reduction equates to an annual savings of 26,000 MWh versus our competitors. This reduces carbon emissions by 14,000 metric tons per year!
  • Smart grids hold potential to maximize electricity generation efficiency by utilizing data on average and peak power usage. Devices like Zeus, Maxim's smart-grid SoC, enable electricity meters that accurately measure usage and can securely communicate that data to utilities or power plants. By enabling this exchange of information, utilities can use renewable energy sources, like wind and solar.
  • Solar cell chargers, like the MAX17710, work with solar cells or Near Field Communication (NFC) to harvest energy. Using miniscule amounts of energy (as low as 1 microwatt) the device can harvest energy from clean, renewable sources like the sun, with maximum efficiency. The MAX17710 is a complete system for charging and protecting micropower-storage cells such as Infinite Power Solution's Thinergy microenergy cells.

Thanks to Enza Pollifrone, Corporate Responsibility Specialist at Maxim Integrated, who prepared this list in honor of Earth Day. Certainly Maxim isn't alone in using analog integration to drive reductions in electricity demand.

What are the best examples you have seen of power reduction in an application or product?

Related post:

24 comments on “Analog Integration Is Saving Power

  1. Davidled
    April 26, 2013

    Today, Hybrid/Pure vehicle have used more power saving integrated analogy and IC chips. As results, user gets more advanced technology and saves environment and oil on the earth. But, in other hand, System reliability should be more carefully reviewed than saving energy. For example, let us look the battery pack explosion of Boeing airbus. There is an insufficient of fail mode validation in the system level. I think that this issue is related to not only battery pack, but also interface circuit design with integrated IC chip including the lack of knowledge related to real environment. I am pretty sure that Boeing engineer used one of top quality components for each sector. I am curious how IC vendor validate integrated chip thoroughly.

  2. ErinM
    April 26, 2013

    You ask a very interesting question. I will try to find out how we gather knowledge of the real environment for our automotive and aerospace designs.

  3. ErinM
    April 26, 2013

    You ask a very interesting question. I will try to find out how we gather knowledge of the real environment for our automotive and aerospace designs.

  4. Scott Elder
    April 26, 2013


    I can share my experience on how ICs are qualified/validated.  Generally a company will have a qualification procedure that entails a huge list of stresses and life tests to make sure the IC won't die.  For example, most people are aware of ESD tests where the pins are hit with varying degrees of narrow pulsed high current discharges (amperes) and they must survive.  There are also latchup tests where the pins are subjected to high dc currents (i.e. 100mA or so) while the power supply voltage is raised above the maximum supply ratings.  The chip must not fail.  And then there are long term operational life tests at high temperatures (125C to 150C) for hundreds of hours if not 1000 hours.  There are more tests to validate the package integrity for leakages, etc.  And final test is run both before and after these tests to make sure the part performance has not changed.

    The above are all standard qualification tests that are run on all parts.

    But for the case of Boeing, I think the best tests are done by great applications engineers on the bench.  I have a good friend who is in that class.  And what he does is short all the pins to ground and power while the chip is up and running.  This is a huge survival problem.  But it tests the robustness of the design.  The thoroughness of the design engineer who created the part.

    Interestingly though, these high stress tests are NOT because one contemplates such a case in the field.  Rather, it is because the IC manufacturer doesn't want to lose a customer because of a customer error blamed upon the manufacturer!!!!

    For example, imagine that someone has a regulator chip on a test board where they inadvertently shorted the oscilloscope probe tip shield to the VOUT pin line.  This will place the regulator in short circuit mode.  And this is done on a Friday night.  The engineeer comes back on Monday morning and the chip is dead.  It is human nature when looking at a new part to always blame the other guy — the new part.  So good companies understand this potential problem and design robust parts that don't fail under abuse even when that abuse grossly exceeds the rated limits of the part (i.e. 3A short to ground for 100 hours with the chip cycling in and out of thermal shutdown).

    If a customer can't blow up the part, it is by definition a robust part.


  5. Netcrawl
    April 27, 2013

    @Daej what do you think about Hybrid technology? can it really reduce our dependent on oil and carbon footprint? Hybrid is a simple power design- its has one major goal to power our vehicle using the most advanced technology in power and fuel management, lessen our dependent on oil and reducing our carbon footprint. But I think today's hybrid technology is not yet fully developed, “we still have more works to do here and more room to fill.”  

  6. Vishal Prajapati
    April 27, 2013



    It was great insites sir. Even the normal ICs are being tested in such a harsh conditions. I was wondering how accurately every IC performs every time it is being purchsed, no matter how which batch it is from. As you said, there must be more stringent test procedures for the safety critical ICs.

  7. Vishal Prajapati
    April 27, 2013



    It is great to see companies are taking sensible steps towards natural resources conservation. This is the level where the actions have to be taken for corporate social responsibility. This will directly impact the positive marketing of products also and there will also be an implied corporate social responsibility.


    We see lot of companies are spending money after creating NGOs and other environment awareness events to create environmental friendly image. But that things can be done by non-tech companies also. The real investment is to make the designs eco friendly. That will create long term impact.

  8. Scott Elder
    April 27, 2013


    “how accurately every IC performs every time it is being purchsed, no matter how which batch it is from.”

    This is a function of the design method/designer, thoroughness of the test program and how tightly the manufacturer controls the manufacturing flow.  This could take a whole book to answer thoroughly.  But I can gladly present a general summary.

    Great analog ICs are designed solely from a relative perspective – the level of matching – rather than on an absolute basis.  So absolute movements in values are not a first order problem.  On a PCB design it is generally the opposite.

    Whereas a PCB designer will talk in terms of 2kohm divided by 1kohm, IC designers will talk in terms of k*R/n*R — the R cancels and the circuit operates on the basis of k/n.  This is because the absolute R on an IC can vary 20% or more, but k/n can be as good as 0.1% or better.  I used resistors as an example.  The same is true for integrated capacitors, transistors, etc.  Given the above, a manufacturers ability to manage the matching in their process is important because absolute control is generally very poor.  Better matched parts are worth more money.  Look at the prices for precision analog parts — many are graded based upon the matching performance (i.e. offset voltage, ADC linearity, etc.).

    On every wafer that is manufacturered there are locations where a process control monitor design is inserted.  To call a wafer good, the process control monitor must pass its own test program.  Only then can the wafer be considered for final product testing.

    Designing a good test program is a balance between thoroughness and cost of the test.  For digital ICs robust test methods have been solidly established.  There are no shortcuts.  On the other hand, analog ICs have no generic test flow.  Every analog test program is different.  Buying an analog IC is like buying a fine wine – it gets better with age.  This may sound funny, but it is true.

    Analog test programs evolve over time and process technology stabilizes.  Everyone in the factory from test to manufacturing “learn” how to make the part.  So a company that is an early adopter of a new analog IC will help the manufacturer “age the wine” by sending back parts called good that are in fact bad.




  9. Vishal Prajapati
    April 28, 2013

    @Scott, That was great information. I never knew the K/N ratio. I was wondering because of that only, how each part are so accurate. And after all analog design is also a matter of experience unlike digital design. Very true.

  10. amrutah
    April 29, 2013

      Since the device cannot be tested for life long in lab the temperature tests are one which help estimate the reliability of the chips.

    To add to your point. HTOL test in one of the important tests as this can cause the IC under temperature stress to cause the diode or junction breakdown, can show up genuine electromigration wearout, channel contamination.

     The thermal stress test, where the a sudden change of temperature is applied to the IC and its robustness is checked.  The POH under stress is then mapped to relaibilty of the chip.


  11. amrutah
    April 29, 2013


    Another great weapon that Analog designers have is the feedback systems, these help combat many of the variations present due to a MOS or a passive device.

    The external components derating and robust design will help improve the reliablity and the accuracy of the IC.

  12. Netcrawl
    April 29, 2013

    @Vishal you're right, Today's high tech companies are under constant pressures to reduce carbon footprint and improve efficiencies wherever they can. Many of today's high tech companies are jumping on the green bandwagon, some making partnership with non-profit organization, other do their own environment initiative. By making their product lines much better and eco friendly, companies would earn a “positive points” from consumers and public. 

  13. Brad Albing
    April 29, 2013

    Amrutah – remind me – what do HTOL and POH mean?

  14. Brad Albing
    April 29, 2013

    So to consider purely cynically, companies could take an environmentally friendly approach to business just so they are more well-liked by the public, which could result in more businees, which could increase their profits. We'd like to think they would pursue this course of action because it's the right thing to do (morally proper, save the earth for our grandchildren, etc.). But the results end up being good for people and for the earth either way, so it works out OK regardless of the initial motivation.

  15. amrutah
    April 29, 2013


      The HTOL, is the acronym fro High Temperature Operating Life Test and POH is the Power-On Hours.  Basically the FIT rate (Failures in Time) of a chip is calulated for different POH.

  16. Brad Albing
    April 29, 2013

    OK – thanks. I almost kind of remembered that.

  17. Scott Elder
    April 29, 2013

    As often spoken, perception is reality.  So if a company promotes their products as environmentally friendly–and in a believable, easily understood way–then I agree completely.  You win either way.  The important point is to make believable claims.

  18. Brad Albing
    April 29, 2013

    Altho' to be fair, you could have a digital control loop – a closed loop system – that had feedback and was therefore regulated.

  19. SunitaT
    April 30, 2013

    Texas Instruments has released a power converter, TPS62736 DC/DC step-down converter, that lets designers build ultra-low-power consumer electronics. The TPS62736 is a highly integrated ultra low power buck converter solution that is well suited for meeting the special needs of ultra low power applications such as energy harvesting. It enables battery-free power to applications, such as wireless sensor networks, monitoring systems, smoke detectors, wearable medical devices and mobile accessories. 

    April 30, 2013

    Back during the gas crunch of the 70's would be the first place where analog made a difference in energy savings… It was the electronic fuel injection that started to improve gas mileage of cars.

  21. Brad Albing
    April 30, 2013

    Huh – kinda forget about that being introduced. Seems like we've always had fuel injection.

  22. David Maciel Silva
    April 30, 2013

    LED TV, plasma televisions or pipe (old), have a much higher consumption compared to LED TVs.

    And the trend is only further reduce consumption, fast switching devices with low power consumption.

  23. Scott Elder
    May 1, 2013


    I've often wondered about the claims for power efficiency between plasma (modern) and LED.  Here is why.

    Plasma is direct light.  So if the screen is black, the light is off.  It is the ULTIMATE in zoned lighting.  Like OLED.

    An LED TV has color filters.  Starts with all white even though many pixels are off and the majority of the others are not full white.  Unless the backlight is zoned, I wonder what the real comparison reveals.  What kind of image is being used for the tests?  If it is all white, then maybe.  If it is a movie with lots of dark pixels, is it still more efficient?

    Maybe someone with experience can chime in?


  24. Brad Albing
    May 2, 2013

    So battery-free, energy harvesting apps would imply pretty low quiescent power. Do you remember what the device's quiescent current draw is and what its output current specs are (min and max)?

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