Atmel Corporation

Atmel Extends Battery Life With Its New picoPower AVR MCUs

    San Jose, California (ots/PRNewswire) -

    - picoPower Technology Slashes Power Drain to 650 nA in Power-save & 100  nA in Power-down

    Atmel(R) Corporation (Nasdaq: ATML), announced today the first two AVR(R) microcontrollers to incorporate a power-saving technology that provides multi-year battery-life in lighting control, security, keyless entry, ZigBee(TM) and other applications that spend most of their time in sleep mode. The picoPower(TM) technology reduces "power-save" power consumption to as little as 650 nA, even with the 32 kHz clock running and superior brown-out detection, the industry's lowest.

    The two picoPower devices now available are the ATmega169P with a 4x25 segment LCD controller, and the ATmega165P general purpose microcontroller. Both microcontrollers have 16 Kbytes of Flash memory, 512 Bytes EEPROM and 1 Kbytes SRAM. They feature a 10-bit ADC, USART, SPI, Two-Wire-Interface and operate from 1.8 to 5.5 volt with up to 16 MIPS throughput. Fourteen additional 8-bit picoPower AVR microcontrollers will be added within the next twelve months.

    picoPower microcontrollers consume down to 340 uA in active mode, 150 uA in idle mode at 1 MHz, 650 nA in power-save mode and 100 nA in power-down mode. They will be pin-, performance- and code-compatible with existing AVR microcontrollers.

    According to Asmund Saetre, Atmel's AVR marketing manager, "Multi-year battery lives are becoming mandatory in a wide variety of applications. People don't really relish the idea of changing the battery in their car key or home HVAC system. Battery life has become so important that it is even a part of the ZigBee specification. ZigBee end-products must have a battery life of at least two years or they won't be certified.

    "The systems for which we developed picoPower share one attribute; they spend most of their time doing nothing, but have features that draw unnecessary power even when they are in sleep mode. Although saving a few nanoAmps here and there may not seem like a big deal, in systems that spend the vast majority of their time inactive, incremental improvements in sleep mode power consumption can add years to the battery life of the end-product. Atmel has focused on eliminating or drastically reducing the power drain from oscillators, brown-out detectors, I/O pin leakage and the like to achieve the lowest power MCUs on the market," Saetre concluded.

    Atmel's picoPower technology utilizes a variety of innovative techniques that eliminate unnecessary power consumption in power-down modes. These include an ultra low power 32 kHz crystal oscillator, automatic disabling and re-enabling of brown out detection (BOD) circuitry during sleep modes, a power reduction register (PRR) that completely powers down individual peripherals, and digital input disable registers that turn off the digital inputs to specific pins.

    300 nA 32 kHz Real Time Clock (RTC). Many systems must keep track of time even when they are powered down. Atmel has been optimized its 32 kHz crystal oscillator to let the total power consumption of the device with a RTC be as low as 650 nA.

    2 uS Accurate BOD with Sleep Mode. Brown-Out Detectors (BOD) detect when the power supply falls below the threshold required for operation and then issue a power-on-reset to protect valuable data. Without this protection, a power failure could cause catastrophic damage to the controller and make it inoperable. The accuracy of BODs is directly proportional to the current they consume. Low- or zero-power BODs tend to be both slow and inaccurate, while more accurate, faster BODs consume a lot of power. Since BODs usually remain on in sleep mode, they represent a substantial drag on battery life. As a result, most vendors of ultra-low power MCUs, sacrifice accuracy and speed to lower current consumption.

    Atmel has taken a new approach, by creating a BOD with enough current to provide accurate detection at 1.8, 2.7 and 4.5V with 2 microseconds response time. Power is saved by automatically disabling the BOD during sleep mode and re-enabling it when the controller wakes up - before it executes any instructions. This approach provides superior protection with substantially less power drain.

    Digital Input Disable Registers. Low pin-count MCUs frequently mix analog-to-digital-conversion (ADC) and digital IO on the same pins. This can lead to current leakage through the digital IO buffer. Atmel has solved this problem with a dedicated input disable register (DIDR) that let the software disconnect all digital buffers from inputs that are used for ADC readings.

    Power Reduction Register. A power reduction register (PRR) on picoPower AVR MCUs contains control bits for disabling the entire clock distribution to unused peripheral modules. The power reduction register is controlled by software that allows the user to turn on and off peripheral modules at any time. The current state is frozen and all I/O registers are inaccessible when the peripheral module is disabled by the power reduction register. When re-enabled, the peripheral module continues in the same state as before it was disabled. Disabling one peripheral module results in a reduction of 5 to 10 % of the total power consumption in active mode and 10 to 20 % of the total power consumption in Idle mode.

    Clock-gating Techniques. Atmel has also implemented dynamically configurable clock gating techniques that freeze the clock in parts of the circuit when they are not required. Upon reactivation, the module restarts in the same state as before. Clock-gating can also be used to reduce noise and improve the ADC performance in situations that require higher resolution measurements.

    Flash Sampling at Low Clock Frequencies. Conventional MCUs leave the Flash on during active mode, causing unnecessary static power consumption at low operating frequencies of a few MHz or less. AVR microcontrollers use a technique called Flash sampling that enables the Flash for a few nanoseconds to sample the array's contents and then immediately disables it, substantially reducing this source of current leakage.

    The ATmega165P and the ATmega169P are available now in production quantities in 64-pin TQFP and 64-pin QFN packages. ATmega165P is priced at US$2.15 and ATmega169P with LCD controller is priced at US$2.25 for 10,000 units.

    About Atmel

    Atmel is a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of microcontrollers, advanced logic, mixed-signal, nonvolatile memory and radio frequency (RF) components. Leveraging one of the industry's broadest intellectual property (IP) technology portfolios, Atmel is able to provide the electronics industry with complete system solutions. Focused on consumer, industrial, security, communications, computing and automotive markets, Atmel ICs can be found Everywhere You Are(R).

    NOTE: Atmel(R), logo and combinations thereof, Everywhere You Are(R), AVR(R) and others, are the registered trademarks, picoPower(TM) and others are trademarks of Atmel Corporation or its subsidiaries. Other terms and product names may be trademarks of others.


    Atmel's picoPower AVR information may be retrieved at: .

@@start.t1@@      Press Contacts:
      Philippe Faure, Marketing Communications Manager -- Microcontrollers
      Phone: +33-2-40-18-18-87, Email:
      Helen Perlegos, Public Relations -- USA and Asia Pacific Rim,
      Phone: +1-408-487-2963, Email:
      Veronique Sablereau, Corporate Communications Manager -- Europe
      Phone: +33-1-30-60-70-68, Fax: + 49-71-31-67-24-23

    Web site:

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Pacific Rim, Helen Perlegos, Public Relations, +1-408-487-2963, or, or Europe, Veronique Sablereau, Corporate
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49-71-31-67-24-23, or, all of Atmel

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