Startup claims lowest power microcontroller with 0.25V operation

April 12, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
Eta Compute Inc. (Westlake Village, Calif.), a startup IP licensor and design services company founded in 2015, claims to have developed the world's lowest power microcontroller IP with a Cortex-M3 processor core that operates down to 0.25V.

This is the thought to lowest operational voltage for logic circuitry and well in to the sub-threshold voltage regime of transistor action.

Eta Compute has measured data for the Cortex-M3 from ARM in 90nm 90LP process from foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) and as the voltage scale from 0.25V to 1.2V the maximum clock frequency scales from 250kHz to 90MHz, the company said by way of email correspondence.

The company's low-power system-on-a-chip (SoC) and microcontroller intellectual property is intended to operate in energy harvesting regimes and support autonomous Internet of Things deployments.

Gopal Raghavan, former CTO of Cadence's IP division, co-founded Eta and serves the company as president and CEO.

Eta Compute IP cores are in the nanowatt to microwatt domain. Source: Eta Compute.

The company has a range of IP blocks listed on its website including Cortex-M3 that operates from 0.25 to 1.2 volts and is designed for a 90LP process with power consumption of less than 5 microwatts. There is also Cortex M0+ cores with power consumption of less than 2 microwatts. A PMIC is available for dynamic voltage scaling from 0.2V to 1.5V with 80 percent efficiency. Other cores include a 12bit serial approximation register analog-to-digital converter, real-time clock, audio DSP and AES encryption block.

The 200 ksample per second ADC consumes less than 3 microwatts and the RTC between less than 100nW to less than 10nW depending on process technology. The 128-bit block cipher AES that supports key sizes 128, 192 and 256-bits.

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