It's all about the power, or lack thereof. The number of applications that require an extremely low power level is on the rise. And the difficulty for designers to reach these lower power levels is on the decline. One good example of this low-power technology comes from Microchip, in its latest PIC microcontrollers, which add nanoWatt XLP eXtreme Low Power Technology. The result is a sleep currents as low as 20 nA.
In most cases, it's the battery-powered applications that require such low power; but not always. Other key features of the nanoWatt XLP technology are real-time clock currents down to 500 nA and watchdog timer currents down to 400 nA. Examples include portable and battery-powered consumer devices, like sealed disposable electronics, white goods, game controllers, etc; industrial equipment, such as utility meters, security systems, thermostats, sprinkler timers, etc; automotive (diagnostic equipment, car alarms, key fobs); and medical.
One of the families to incorporate the nanoWatt XLP technology is the four-member, 16-bit PIC24F16KA family, which offers integrated EEPROM, small footprints, and low pin counts. According to Microchip, these parts enable applications to run for more than 20 years from a single battery.
Other families enabled by the nanoWatt XLP technology include the six-member PIC18F46J11 and the six-member PIC18F46J50 8-bit MCU lines. The general-purpose PIC18F46J11 MCUs provide up to 64 kbytes of flash program memory, while the PIC18F46J50 devices add integrated full-speed USB 2.0.
Plug-in modules are available for owners of some existing PIC-based development boards. For more information, visit www.microchip.com/XLP. In addition, all nanoWatt XLP microcontrollers are supported by Microchip's development tools, including the free MPLAB IDE, available at www.microchip.com/XLPTools. Prices (for lots of 10,000 units) range from $1.38 to $1.78, depending on packages and other option.