Who doesn’t love the classic image of a caveman, wielding a crude hammer and pick, trying to carve out a wheel? Poor guy, if only he had a hardened steel hammer and a sharpened bit with a carbon tip. Better yet, a lathe and carbon tip bit, or … jokes aside, that cartoon speaks to tools since quality tools are so important. Using incorrect tools makes a job tiresome and difficult, while using the right tools makes the work fun. That’s why we became engineers in the first place, right?
Thinking about tools reminds me of when Maxim first announced a nanoPower device back in 2017, the MAX1722x family of nanoPower boost converters, which consume just nanoamps of quiescent current. These nanoPower devices are unique tools, optimized to consume as little power as possible and limit overall system power consumption. These tools power amazing new devices and applications that run longer from smaller power sources.
The exciting news with nanoPower technology is that Maxim continues to innovate and build a complete toolkit. Innovation doesn’t just happen because we like to do it. Yes, engineers love to build things, but no well-run company in the world just lets highly trained engineers build anything they want. Rather, the market must demand such development. You, our customers, have pushed us to continue to design, build, test, and improve our nanoPower parts. Now, you have choices including nanoPower boost and buck converters, amplifiers, real-time clocks, voltage supervisors and microcontrollers. Ultimately, these products become part of your toolkit, a kit that allows you to explore and build feature rich, small, low power systems.
The latest exciting nanoPower part is the MAX17227A, a 2A boost converter. It features the same input and output voltages as the MAX1722x family mentioned above. That input range, 400mV to 5.5V, allows for a variety of batteries, all the way down to a single AA battery, even when discharged. On the output side, the MAX17227A provides up to 2A of peak inductor output current, while consuming just 350nA of quiescent current, and 1nA of current when in shutdown. In contrast, the first nanoPower boost converter consumed 300nA with a peak inductor output of 1A.
Consider the potential of doubling output current while consuming just 350nA of quiescent current. Our nanoPower technology provides the greatest benefits for sensor systems, which run intermittently and receive power from batteries and other limited power supplies. The number of sensors in the world continues to proliferate. Allied Market Research estimates the sensor market to grow at a CAGR of 9.5% from 2019 to 2025. Also important is that the number of sensors and subsystems in each piece of hardware also continues to grow.
Take an advanced piece of hardware like a virtual reality/augmented reality headset. This hardware projects an image that moves in accordance with a user’s head. Advanced products track eye movement for a more immersive experience. Spatial mapping and hand tracking drive the user into an even deeper experience. And for additional immersion, microphones pick up sound and audio engines map the acoustics. To top off the entire system, an SoC or custom silicon must process all of these signals and communicate with the cloud. Clearly, systems of this complexity require plenty of power and need to limit power consumption whenever possible.