eoSemi aims big with quartz crystal replacement

March 14, 2012 // By Nick Flaherty
UK startup eoSemi is aiming to take a significant share of the market for quartz crystals in high volume applications such as mobile phones with its all-CMOS oscillator changes the way systems are designed.

The company will ship its own products based on the 180nm ATOC (Accurate Timing Oscillator Circuit) technology to replace 32kHz quartz crystals on printed circut boards, but it is also offering a manufacturing licensing to large semiconductor companies that supply mobile phone makers. The temperature compensation in ATOC removes the need for a thermistor and two capacitors and allows the timing source to be integrated into a system in package (SIP) that includes the other chips for a mobile phone. This dramatically simplifies the design of the phone, making it cheaper to make and more reliable, says Ian Macbeth, CEO of eoSemi. It is this key advantage that will see the technology take off, he says, particularly as sourcing quartz crystals is a key problem for many manufacturers and a single source of failure in a design.
The design includes key calibration circuitry to minimize the impact of the process technology, and the algorithms to calibrate the device are provided as binary code to the manufacturing partners to ensure the design is protected. “If any one reverse engineers it they don’t have a calibrated part and the algorithms for that are part of the production flow,” said Macbeth. “ We provide these algorithms as pieces of executable code that are secure, not source code,” he said.
The company is now looking at dual frequency devices with an oscillator in the MHz range that would be tunable at the manufacturing stage or by the user. “We could have a programmable output that could even e user selectable,” he said.
Early silicon has been shipped to partners from TSMC and is undergoing life testing with commercial launch towards the end of the year. The device draws just 8µA of supply current in active mode with accuracy down to ±30ppm across the operating temperature range of -40 to +85°C.


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