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Analog Angle Article

ISSCC 2010 goes beyond just “more and better digital”

If you think the annual International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC, February 7-11, San Francisco) is mostly about “digital” and characterized by new processes, tighter geometries, and advanced processor and memory topologies, you'd only be partially right. There is a surprisingly robust “big A” analog presence, encompassing building-block functions, data converters, power supplies, sensors and MEMS, 60-GHz and higher RF, insect-mounted RFID, data acquisition, software-defined radio (SDR), test/measurement, and integrated wireless functions. Take a closer look at you'll see there is plenty at the event for the non-digital IC enthusiast.

For basic analog, there's a chopper-based CMOS instrumentation amplifier (in amp) with offset of just 2 μV and power consumption at the microwatt level [sessions 4.2, 4.4]. Another design uses a control technique to allow a single inductor to be shared across multiple outputs in a DC/DC supply [10.3, 10.5, 10.6], and there is a switched-capacitor charge pump which delivers over half a watt per mm2 [10.8]. Or try an integrated frequency reference which turns silicon thermal time constants to advantage to achieve ±0.2% accuracy without trimming, and excellent temperature stability [4.1].

Data converters also get their moments. Check out a converter for multicarrier GSM base stations, sampling at over 100 Msamples/sec while providing linearity of over 100 dB [16.1, 16.2], or a CMOS audio ADC with 110 dB SNR while dissipating only 500 μW in a 0.04 mm2 die [16.7]. If you are more of a medical instrumentation person, there's an 18-bit, 12.5 Msample/sec converter targeting MRI and digital X-ray applications [21.1]. How about a signal-processor with near-zero power requirements (30 μW) to extract the heart's rhythm, so it can run from a battery for months while monitoring the PUT (patient under test) [6.6]?

For wide-span temperature measurements–and who isn't interested in temperature?–you'll find an integrated sensor requiring no calibration, but offering ±0.2°C accuracy from –5°C to +125°C [17.4]. But if you are more interested in pressure than temperature, a pressure-monitoring system for medical implants for blood and intraocular pressure occupies less than 1 mm2 , and consumes 200,000× less energy than conventional monitors [12.2].

Other sensing situations are not ignored, either, as you can see a time-of-flight transducer for gaming range-finding applications, integrating optical sensing via an 80×60 pixel image sensor [22.7]. No need to stop there, of course, if you are really into tiny, check out a demonstration of an autonomous, wireless in-flight recording of a live insect, via a passive, ultra-low-power RFID system which consumers 19.2 μA, has a 3-meter range, and it can even be mounted on a live moth [2.8].

Both more-common and emerging wireless applications get their paper-and-face time as well. There is a CMOS 77-GHz long-range radar integrating clock generation and antenna assembly, and which meets the 100-meter range standard [11.2], and a 2×2 beamforming transmitter offering horizontal and vertical scanning in the 60-GHz band [2.3]. SDR takes another step forward (it's just around the corner, yet again) with a wireless receiver which connects the ADC to the RF front end, with a high-linearity stage which is claimed to be +4 dBm better than precious designs at the 900-MHz band [3.5]. In the arena of single-chip “do it all”, there's a single-chip WLAN, Bluetooth, and FM radios including integral power amplifier, with +23 dBm output at 2.4 GHz [25.3].

Wireline is not ignored, either, despite the heavy RF composure. Check out a receiver equalizer which claims to be the most effective ever built, and can recover “almost evaporated data” (a wonderfully descriptive phrase!) and can compensate for up to 39 dB of loss, equivalent to receiving only 1.4% of the data energy originally transmitted [8.5].

Clearly, there's a lot of analog in the ISSCC forest, if you can see beyond the digital trees. But one word of caution about ISSCC: it's not a good place to replenish your collection of freebies, such as pens, mouse pads, and LED lights, sorry.♦

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