• Moving to a New Home! Analog Wire...

    Well… it’s moving time again! With my new focus on high performance analog and signal integrity, I am moving to the famous TI blog – Analog Wire.  All the original Energy Zarr Blog content will be available via our archive on the E2E community for your reading pleasure.  I look forward to blogging on the new venue and I hope you enjoy my new contributions as much as I enjoy writing them!  See you there…

  • Industrial Strength – Part III

    Chemical plant at nightIn my prior two post (Part I and Part II) on designing industrial strength systems I discussed thermal management issues and various methods for hardening designs against EMI and ESD.  In the last installment I discussed system failures due to lightning effects and other electromagnetic susceptibility issues. These failures can be subtle and only slightly damage a device affecting its long term reliability or they can…

  • Industrial Strength Design – Part II

    Other Parts Discussed in Post: LMP2022, LMP2021

    Chemical Plant at NightIn part 1 of this blog series I talked about harsh environments which include mines, mills, chemical plants, et. al.  Designing for those environments means taking into consideration extremes which normal products (e.g. consumer goods) would never experience.  We covered (briefly) some thermal issues found in these environments, but beyond high temperatures, corrosives and…

  • Industrial Strength Design - Part I

    Other Parts Discussed in Post: LM340

    Chemical plant at nightWhen you think of engineering for industrial applications, my first thought goes to environmental conditions of applications such as steel mills.  There are motor controllers working right next to (or attached to) giant electric furnaces and smelters, huge overhead cranes and massive electric fields.  It’s just another day at the office, huh? You may think it’s fairly straight forward…

  • Revitalizing Op-Amp Topologies

    Other Parts Discussed in Post: LM741, LMH6644, LMH6642

    If you are as old as I am, you may remember the quintessential “Op-Amp Cook Book” by Walter Jung (I have an autographed copy) or the must have “Intuitive IC Op-Amps” by Tom Frederiksen (I also have an autographed copy).  Many of the useful circuits in both of these works employ split supply op-amps such as the LM741.  In the early days of integrated…

  • To Be Single or Differential, That is the Question

    Other Parts Discussed in Post: LMH6553

    Whether 'tis nobler to signal via complementary means, or to take arms against a sea of noise… ah, but I take literary license with Shakespeare.  But it does raise a real question… should a designer use differential or single ended methods for carrying analog signals?  The answer also contains a question… which is, “it depends on the SNR requirements” or “it depends…

  • Everything is Part of the Circuit

    Now I’m sure as engineers we have all studied circuit modeling.  SPICE is an amazing tool to emulate how your final circuit might perform… but what’s really interesting is that passive components such as resistors, capacitors, inductors and wires (conductors) are far more than that as frequency increases!  It is also important to revisit the printed circuit board… it too is more than simply “wires”.…

  • Where Did I Go Wrong? The System Edition

    In my previous blog “Where Did I Go Wrong? Funny Mistakes in Electrical Engineering” I discussed some simple, yet devastating things that led to circuit failures.  In this post, I’m going to touch on a couple items that caused several system wide failures and yes… one is energy related. So sit back, enjoy a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage (or decaf if you have the jitters) and read on.…

  • Tis the Season to Save Energy

    In my never ending quest to lower our carbon footprint, I bring you good tidings of progress made and lessons learned.  Recently my wife and I became “empty nesters” and our two daughters are learning that a one degree change in the thermostat can affect their electric bill. You may have read some of my previous posts such as “Saving Energy Takes Getting your Hands Dirty” or ”Ignorance is Bliss…

  • The Top 5 Reasons to be Thankful for CMOS

    Tis the season to be thankful… November 22nd marks Thanks Giving Day in the US where people gather around a table to consume a feast and give thanks for friends and family.  The engineering community has much to be thankful for as well.  The number “zero” for instance… without zero, the ability to represent large numbers would take a great deal of beans and things would be very difficult to calculate.…

  • Tools for Joules

    Since the dawn of time, man has invented tools to make life easier… and today is no exception.  Look around and you’ll find that just about every man made item falls into the category.  Don’t believe me? Try it out… OK, “automobile” – tool, used for transporting people or things from place to place, “house” – tool, used to shelter our families and our stuff, “cellphone” – tool, for communicating with your buds…

  • The Truth about Jitter

    Jitter is one of life’s little annoyances… especially if you are neurosurgeon with a caffeine addiction. Jitter is fundamentally the time variation of a system from an expected baseline and comes in two major flavors – deterministic (systemic) and random.  Electronically, it appears in clocks and other digital systems where the intended “information” carries some uncertainty. This “uncertainty” can affect…

  • Avoiding Excessive Engineering – Top Ten Tips for Doing More with Less

    Gears of ProgressAvoiding Excessive Engineering – Top Ten Tips for Doing More with Less

    I have often said, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” and in the realm of engineering it is very applicable.  I often examine systems that have thrown everything but the metaphorical “kitchen sink” into the design “just in case”.  Interestingly enough, those same designs lacked proper engineering…

  • Will Binary Communications Survive?

    IStock_000000123354XSmallIn my last post "Going Faster Has a Price" I discussed the issues with transmitting bits represented by two states at faster data rates and the problems of inherent loss in the media, ISI and many other phenomenon that screw up the signal.  Through careful channel design and active means, engineers can transmit and recover bits over copper cable and back planes with ever greater rates.  For example, National Semiconductor…

  • Going Faster Has a Price

    IStock_000005835679XSmallAs you know, if you want a car that you can drive at 150 MPH, then you will pay a premium since it will require additional technology to keep you connected to the road and overcome the frictional forces of the air - as well as the "Gee, I look really cool in this car" effect which at times comes with an even greater price tag.  In the physical world of high speed data and signal integrity, these laws also apply…

  • Get Active - Lowering Networking Power in Data Centers

    Other Parts Discussed in Post: DS64BR401

    IStock_000002328995XSmallIn the past I’ve discussed topics such as virtualization and digital power to help improve data center processing efficiency.  I may even have discussed additions to the 802.3 standard to idle Ethernet drops when they were not in use.  However, I have not addressed the interconnect power itself and it was surprising what I found.
    In medium scale data centers such as those run…

  • Engineer This! (Part II)

    Learn from a mentorIn an earlier post ("Engineer This!") that I published almost exactly one year ago, I challenged engineers world-wide to solve some fundamental issues regarding energy - I think everyone is still working on those (my fusion powered electric car hasn’t been delivered yet...).  However, the other day I was talking with a very wise man I met from Egypt.  It is not often you find such wisdom in an individual…

  • Where Did I Go Wrong? Funny Mistakes in Electrical Engineering

    Train wreck at Montparnasse in 1895This week I thought I’d diverge a bit from the Energy Efficiency theme and share some funny engineering experiences I’ve had over the years. I’ve been a practicing engineer for over 30 years and have been involved reviewing projects and circuit designs a good part of that period.  I’ve collected a list of several of my favorite oversights (the names have been withheld to protect the guilty).  Hope…

  • Saving Energy Takes Getting Your Hands Dirty…

    IStock_000010093494XSmallI often write about saving energy, improving efficiency, and lowering your planetary impact... so it’s time for me to come clean and show you my efforts to reduce my carbon footprint.  When I first designed my home back in 2000, I wasn’t thinking energy costs were going to skyrocket.  Instead I went for good efficiency, but not great efficiency... I’m paying for that now.  Even though our home is built…

  • The World Electric – Part III

    The future of semiconductors?Imagine that it’s now the year 2093, two hundred years after the Columbian World’s Exposition of 1893 where Westinghouse lit the event with 100,000 incandescent bulbs amazing the Victorian visitors with artificial electric light.  In this future at the end of the 21st century the electronics industry has greatly matured and also diverged.  Micro-electromechanical Systems (MEMS) have merged with analog semiconductor…

  • The World Electric – Part II

    IStock_000000387396XSmallAs I discussed in part one of this series, electrical power and lighting was débuted at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition by Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla.  Now, a little over 100 years later we carry in our pockets technology so advanced that the Victorian era population would not even recognize it as such -  in fact, it may have been considered magic or supernatural.

    But what is the next stop beyond the…

  • The World Electric – Part I

    TWEAt the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (aka: Chicago World’s Fair) Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla introduced the world to alternating current as well as the Westinghouse brand light bulb of which 100,000 were used to light the event. There was a great optimism with regards to technology and the future during that period and a little over 110 years later I believe that enthusiasm still survives.  The idea of…

  • Of Mice and Pads

    Is the mouse approaching retirement?I’m taking some literary license with the title of this post to borrow from the works of Robert Burns (i.e. a poem entitled "To a Mouse") to contrast a similar symbolism found in the poem itself... in our case the end of computer mice and the rise of "touch".  With their latest entry, Apple’siPad along with many other touch enabled smart phones and touch screen computers are laying the ground…

  • The End Of The Carbon Age

    IStock_000009197493XSmallIn studies of the progress of mankind, periods in time have been given specific names to identify the level of our development.  For instance, names such as the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age were placed on various periods in time to describe what materials were in wide use for tools and weapons.  Today, we have similar names such as the Steam Age or Industrial Age (roughly 1770 to 1914) and more recently the Information…

  • The Energy of Information

    Is the energy content of information increasing?As a Technologist it is very interesting to me that in the twenty first century our world still prints newspapers and books on paper.  More amazingly, the computer printer market is booming especially in areas such as photo-printers.  In the late twentieth century it was predicted that by the next millennium, paper would be obsolete as a medium for sharing information... I'm pretty sure not everyone got that memo...…