ESD & EMI gets up close & personal -

ESD & EMI gets up close & personal

As pointed out so eloquently by Embedded columnist Jack Ganssle in his “Ghosts in our machines, ” the problems of electrostatic discharge (ESD), electromagnetic interference (EMI), and transient noise have been with embedded systems developers since the invention of the integrated circuit.

But with the shift from the desktop to handheld mobile and embedded consumer devices as the preferred platforms for “personal computing,” these problems have gotten worse. What used to be possible only in a desktop PC is now squeezed into a device that can fit into your hand, is portable, and depends on battery power has forced IC developers to move to smaller transistor sizes, lower power, and lower voltages to achieve higher functionality and more compact system-on-chip designs.

But along with this has come greater sensitivity to all of those EMI, ESD, and noise ghosts that Jack talks about and the need to deal with them, as exemplified in such articles as:

Tips on reducing ESD and improving system reliability
Improving transient immunity in your MCU-based design
Addressing EMI challenges in nextgen high density PCBs

The problems are likely to get even worse as many mobile/embedded consumer designs and HMI designs used in automotive and industrial apps shift to capacitive-touch user interfaces.

Now sensitive low-voltage ICs are up close and personal, just a fingertip away from a major source of such ESD, EMI, and transient noise: the human body. Some of the problems designers have faced and how they have solved them are discussed in my Editor’s Top Picks :

Understanding EMI sources in touchscreens
Design capacitive touch systems for robustness
How capacitive turbosensing reduces noise in touchscreens

EMI, ESD, and transient noise problems are not going away. Far from it: capacitive touch interfaces are still in their infancy. And we can expect ICs will continue down the scaling curve from today’s 60 to 80 nanometer transistor sizes to at least 10nm where they will be even more sensitive to such effects. Let’s hear from you. What do you anticipate and how are you planning to deal with it: at the IC, package, board, or system level? Will you be using software or hardware fixes, or both? Site Editor Bernard Cole is also a partner in TechRite Associates editorial services consultancy. He welcomes your feedback. Call 928-525-9087 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting  928-525-9087  end_of_the_skype_highlighting or send an email to

This article provided courtesy of and Embedded Systems Design Magazine. Sign up for subscriptions and newsletters. Copyright © 2011 UBM–All rights reserved.

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