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MCU architecture sets new low-power benchmark

21 Jan 2015  | Vivek Nanda

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Ambiq Micro, an Austin, Texas-based company spun-off from research at the University of Michigan, has claimed its Apollo family of 32bit ARM Cortex-M4F MCUs consume the lowest energy—5 to 10 times less energy—while beating MCUs with Cortex-M0+ benchmarks. That just might be the thing the wearables market needs—a far longer battery life that results from much lower power consumption.

Optimising sleep

The Apollo MCUs optimise both active and sleep mode power. They consume 30µA/MHz when executing instructions from flash and feature average sleep mode currents down to 100nA. This doesn't compromise performance: the embedded ARM Cortex-M4F core, with its precision floating point unit, offers the computational horsepower required for IoT applications.

The Apollo MCUs operate at up to 24MHz and are available with up to 512kB of flash and 64kB of RAM to accommodate radio and sensor overhead in addition to application code. Communication with sensors, radios, other peripherals and an optional host processor is implemented via IC/SPI ports and a UART. On-chip resources include a 10bit, 13-channel, 1MS/s ADC and a temperature sensor with ±2°C accuracy. Two compact packaging options are available: a 64-pin, 4.5 x 4.5mm BGA package with 50 GPIO and a further size-optimised 2.4 x 2.77mm, 42-pin CSP with 27 GPIO.

Apollo Bock Diagram

Figure 1: The MCUs include on-board 512kB flash, 64kB RAM, IC/SPI ports, UART, a 10bit ADC and a temperature sensor.

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