LONDON Texas Instruments has started sampling a 0.3V input power management chip with a 0.5V start-up that will enable portable electronic end-equipment to draw power from new energy sources, such as solar and micro-fuel cells.
The tiny power circuit will operate at 90 percent efficiencies, said Uwe Mengelkamp, director of TI's DC/DC converter product line, allowing designers to overcome the low-voltage design barrier of incorporating these alternative energy sources in applications, such as mobile phones, portable medical devices and media players.
In contrast, today’s best step-up converters can only support an input voltage beginning at 0.7 V with start-up at 0.9 V good for primary re-chargeable battery cells or main supplies, but not low enough to support new applications using energy harvesting power sources, said Mengelkamp.
The part, dubbed TPS61200, is made in TI's linear 0.25 micron BiCMOS process.
The TPS61200’s ability to operate from a single solar cell eliminates the need for multiple solar cells in series, and eliminates the required protection circuitry associated with series connection. This opens the door to new potential innovative designs, such as a built-in solar-powered cell phone charger that uses indoor ambient lighting to help provide an infinite amount of standby time.
"Portable equipment designers, including those in the portable medical, wireless and portable audio fields, are continuing to look at how to apply solar and fuel cell technology into their devices to extend battery life and differentiate their products," said Mengelkamp.
Mengelkamp stressed it is not certain what we will see first, but the ideas are endless. "What is certain is that designers can use the TPS61200 to achieve low-voltage operation to connect these new low-power energy sources with the ICs in their system."
The device comes in a 10-pin, 3 mm x 3 mm QFN package, and offers output short-circuit protection, programmable under-voltage lockout and a "down-conversion mode" that helps protect the device when an input voltage rises higher than the output voltage.
The chip's extremely low operating voltage is also said to eliminate many of the design challenges that occur when operating a single-cell alkaline, nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batter to power anything from toys to portable medical devices.