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CTIA Authorized 5G mmWave Test System with Multi-AoA Capabilities in FR2

ELE Times - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 10:00

Rohde & Schwarz has cooperated with the US-based CTIA organization to authorize the first multiple angles of arrival (multi-AoA) test system for CTIA OTA performance certification. The solution is based on the successful conformance test system R&S TS8980 while also leveraging the R&S CMX500 5G tester together with the R&S ATS1800M mmWave (FR2) chamber from the advanced chamber portfolio from Rohde & Schwarz.

5G NR mmWave technology will witness the adoption of new, complex technologies such as beamforming, sophisticated antenna array systems and a new usable communications spectrum. For FR2, every device will have to be tested over the air (OTA), without any cable connections. Many advanced 5G NR applications also rely on ultra-high data rates and ultra-low latencies. Both are only accessible in FR2. The test solution from Rohde & Schwarz is tailored to address these requirements and features. Certification by CTIA is the door-opener for validating 5G devices including FR2 frequencies for device manufacturers and network operators in the US, and a recognized stamp of approval worldwide.

The certification of mobile devices against common standards is one of the most important cornerstones of ensuring their interoperability. Rohde & Schwarz is the first test and measurement supplier authorized by the CTIA to supply these certification tests in a 5G FR2 test system that also offers full multi-AoA capabilities. Multi-AoA is critical for verifying the performance of mobile devices in the mmWave space, as radio waves at these high frequencies (e.g. 28 GHz) suffer from high path loss and therefore need to be focused in narrow beams that are challenging to find, track and hand over while moving.

The new test system is the same advanced test platform that recently achieved the industry’s first Test Platform Approval Criteria (TPAC) for RRM 5G NR FR2. Scalable from 30 to 40 cm quiet zone, from Single AoA to Multi-AoA and from in-band to out-of-band – the test system is already prepared for advanced testing challenges. These include phantom testing with the two-hand landscape, single-hand portrait and head testing, for which specification work is ongoing at CTIA. Furthermore, support for the upcoming test requirements from 3GPP releases 16, 17 and 18, is being planned, giving customers the confidence to invest in a future-proof platform.

Dr. Thomas Eyring, Director of Mobile Device Certification at Rohde & Schwarz, says, “We are proud to support CTIA’s endeavours to accelerate the roll-out of wireless connectivity broadband across the US and beyond. With our considerable experience in over-the-air testing with the latest 5G mmWave products, we were able to create a leading test system to cover the full certification needs for RF and RRM. This gives customers the unique opportunity to fully automate the RF and RRM certification testing process on a single test system, covering OTA performance tests from CTIA as well as tests defined by 3GPP and GCF.”

For more information, visit www.rohde-schwarz.com

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800 V and 950 V AC-DC Integrated Power Stages Expand the Fixed-frequency CoolSET Portfolio

ELE Times - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 09:10

Optimized performance, efficiency, and reliability in high-voltage power supplies need to be combined with reduced bill-of-material (BOM) count and cost, as well as lower design efforts. With its 5th generation fixed-frequency (FF) CoolSET portfolio, Infineon Technologies AG offers the right components to meet these needs and effectively manage the critical design trade-offs. The new 800 V and 950 V AC-DC integrated power stages (IPS) are housed in a DIP-7 package and address applications such as auxiliary power supplies for home appliances, AC-DC converters, battery chargers, solar energy systems, and motor control and drives.

The FF CoolSET solution combines a PWM controller IC with the latest high voltage CoolMOS P7 superjunction (SJ) MOSFETs in a single package. The extended portfolio now includes the first device on the market that uses an avalanche-rugged SJ MOSFET with a breakdown voltage of 950 V to allow for a wider input voltage. The new devices enable both isolated and non-isolated topologies such as flyback or buck and operate at switching frequencies of 100 kHz as well as 65 kHz. Accommodating both the cost-efficient buck topology and flyback in one single device simplifies the supply chain for customers. An integrated error amplifier supports direct feedback from the primary output, which is typical for non-isolated topologies. Moreover, this further minimizes the number of components and design complexity.

The frequency reduction mode with soft gate driving and frequency jitter operation offers lower EMI and enhances the efficiency between mid- and light load conditions. The devices also support continuous (CCM) and discontinuous conduction mode (DCM). For low AC line input conditions, CCM operation can achieve lower conduction losses and, thus, a higher efficiency to meet international regulatory standards for energy efficiency. At the same time, the integrated MOSFET supports an ultra-wide input voltage range commonly associated with single-phase smart metering and industrial applications. In addition, the devices help to optimize the snubber circuitry to further enhance the efficiency and lower the standby power consumption of the converter.

All new devices offer a high level of integration and come with a comprehensive suite of protection features with auto-restart to support the power supply system in failure situations. These protection features, together with the high breakdown voltage of the SJ MOSFET, ensure an increased power supply robustness. On top of that, the active burst mode (ABM) improves the light-load performance and enables ultra-low standby power consumption with small and controllable output voltage ripple.

More information is available at www.infineon.com/coolset-ff.

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Vedanta-Foxconn to Invest Rs 1.54 Lakh cr in India’s First Chip Factory

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 15:29

Mining conglomerate Vedanta and Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn will make one of the largest ever investments of Rs 1.54 lakh crore in setting up India’s first semiconductor plant in Gujarat.

The 60:40 joint venture of Vedanta-Foxconn will set up a semiconductor fab unit, a display fab unit, and a semiconductor assembling and testing unit on a 1000-acre land in the Ahmedabad district.

“The plant will start production in two years,” Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal told after signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gujarat government.

Semiconductor chips, or microchips, are essential pieces of many digital consumer products – from cars to mobile phones and ATM cards. The Indian semiconductor market was valued at USD 27.2 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a healthy CAGR of nearly 19 percent to reach $64 billion in 2026. But none of these chips is manufactured in India so far.

A massive shortage in the semiconductor supply chain last year affected many industries, including electronics and automotive.

To cut dependence on imports from nations like Taiwan and China, the government brought a fiscal incentive scheme for manufacturing semiconductors in the country. Vedana-Foxconn is one of the successful applicants for the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for semiconductors.

“This is the largest ever investment in Gujarat… ours will be the first semiconductor plant in the country,” Agarwal said, adding local manufacturing of chips will make laptops and tablets affordable.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the MoU as one that will boost the economy and create jobs.

“This MoU is an important step in accelerating India’s semiconductor manufacturing ambitions. The investment of Rs 1.54 lakh crore will create a significant impact to boost the economy and jobs. This will also create a huge ecosystem for ancillary industries and help our MSMEs,” he tweeted.

Besides Vedanta, a consortium comprising Dubai-based NextOrbit and Israeli tech firm Tower Semiconductor has signed a deal with the Karnataka government for a plant in Mysuru while Singapore-based IGSS Venture has chosen Tamil Nadu as the location for its unit.

Gujarat Science and Technology Department Secretary Vijay Nehra, who signed the MoU on behalf of the state government, said 8 per cent of all the chips used in the world are manufactured in Taiwan, followed by China and Japan.

“This upcoming facility will mark the beginning of chip manufacturing in India. This is also strategically important for India because it will reduce our dependence on other countries.”

Out of the total investment, Rs 94,000 crore will go into setting up the display manufacturing unit while Rs 60,000 crore will be invested in the semiconductor manufacturing facility, the official said.

As per the MoUs signed by both parties, the Gujarat government will facilitate the investor in obtaining necessary permissions and clearances from the state departments concerned.

“The Gujarat government will also extend fiscal and non-fiscal incentives and benefits as outlined under the Gujarat Semiconductor Policy-2022. Gujarat is the only state to have such a policy exclusively for the semiconductor industry,” Nehra said.

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Rajnikant Patel assured his government would cooperate with the investing entity in setting up the facility and make it a success.

“We will provide all help to the joint venture so the plant can start its operations soon. We are determined to make our country more self-sufficient in tech and curb our reliance on imports from other countries. We sincerely hope that the hub will be the beginning of a bright future and attract investment from other multinational companies down the line,” he said.

In his address, Union Telecom and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the Prime Minister has set a target of creating one crore job opportunities in the electronics manufacturing sector.

“When Prime Minister Modi launched Digital India (initiative) nearly seven years back, we used to wonder where this journey would take us in the future because the PM’s thought process was completely different,” he said.

The journey started with initiatives like Startup India and Make In India, said Vaishnaw.

Today, India has 70,000 startups, including 100 unicorns, said the minister, adding that India has become the second largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world.

He said Indian companies manufacture electronics goods worth Rs USD 80 billion, or nearly Rs 6,00,000 crore, every year.

“Under the PM’s leadership, we created such an ecosystem which has created 25 lakh jobs in the electronics sector alone,” he said.

“Now the PM has given a target of taking the number from 25 lakh to one crore. To do that, we are working on taking electronics production from the present USD 80 billion to USD 300 billion, which roughly comes to Rs 25,00,000 crore,” Vaishnaw said.

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New Improved Ultrasensitive Quantum Sensors

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 15:28

Usually, a defect in a diamond is a bad thing. But for engineers, miniscule blips in a diamond’s otherwise stiff crystal structure are paving the way for ultrasensitive quantum sensors that push the limits of today’s technologies. Now, researchers at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) have developed a method to optimize these quantum sensors, which can detect tiny perturbations in magnetic or electric fields, among other things.

Their new approach advantage of the way defects in diamonds or semiconductors behave like qubits—the smallest unit of quantum information.

“Researchers are already using this kind of qubit to make really amazing sensors,” said Prof. Aashish Clerk, senior author of the new work. “What we’ve done is come up with a better way of getting the most information we can out of these qubits.”

Qubits light the way

A perfect diamond is composed of carbon atoms arranged in a repetitive lattice. Replace one of these atoms with something else—like a nitrogen atom—and the way the new, stand-alone atom sits in the midst of the diamond’s hard structure gives it unique quantum properties. Miniscule changes in the surroundings, from temperature to electricity, alter the way these “solid-state defects” spins and store energy.

Researchers discovered that they can shine a light at one of these qubits and then measure how light is deflected and released to probe its quantum state. In this way, they can use it as a quantum sensor.

Analyzing the information from a solid-state defect, however, is tricky, particularly when many such qubits are embedded in one sensor. As each qubit releases energy, that energy alters the behavior of nearby qubits.

“The qubits all end up correlated with each other in a funny way that doesn’t make sense classically,” said Clerk. “What one qubit does is intimately connected with what other qubits do.”

Moreover, when light shines on a qubit for long enough, it resets to its ground state, losing any information that was encoded in it.

Amplifying information

A basic question about the physics of how qubits interact with each other. In the process of this research, they discovered a new trick to get information out of solid-state defect qubits.

When a network of solid-state defects releases energy in a burst of photons, researchers usually gloss over the exact nature of the qubits as this energy is being released; they focus instead on the data before and after this sudden burst.

Clerk’s group discovered, however, that even more sensitive information about the qubits is encoded in this release of energy (which is called “superradiant spin decay”).

“People had assumed that all the qubits start out excited and they all end up relaxed, and it seems really boring,” he said. “But we found that there’s this slight variation between qubits; they’re not all completely excited and they don’t all relax completely in synchrony.”

By focusing on that long-ignored time point in the midst of superradiant spin decay, Clerk and his team showed how the information stored in solid-state defects is amplified.

The future of quantum sensing

For engineers trying to develop quantum sensors that measure everything from magnetic fields—for better navigation or analysis of molecular structures—to temperature changes inside living cells, the new approach offers a much-needed improvement in sensitivity.

“In the past, the very noisy final readout of qubits in these sensors has really limited everything,” said Clerk. “Now, this mechanism gets you to a stage where you don’t care about that noisy final readout; you’re focused on the more valuable data encoded before it.”

His team is now planning future research on how to improve the sensitivity of solid-state defects even more by distinguishing the data from each qubit, rather than getting one readout from the entire entanglement. They think their new approach makes that goal more achievable than in the past.

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Understanding FMCW Automotive Radar

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 15:26

In this application note, we will look at frequency-modulated continuous waveform (FMCW) radar technology in detail, particularly the wideband 76 – 81 GHz range. We will describe how you can use Keysight’s solutions to test your designs to ensure maximum efficiency, reliability, repeatability, and most importantly, ensure that your devices work to the highest safety standards possible.

Introduction

It is reported that 1.35 million people die from road accidents every year, with thousands more injured. This is the main reason why radar specialists have been recruited by key players in the automotive industry, to develop automotive radar systems that not only improve car safety but also meet key criteria such as size and cost. Because of this market demand, various radar systems, such as adaptive cruise control (ACC), stop-and-go, blind spot detection (BSD), lane change assist (LCA), and rear crash warning (RCW), are now widely used in vehicles.

Radars based on a frequency modulated continuous waveform (FMCW) is the key technology used in most automotive radar applications today. Unlike more traditional pulsed radar, FMCW radar using continuous wave modulation can avoid a high peak-to-average power ratio (PAPR) in transmission, which simplifies the design process for antennas and RF components like power amplifiers. Consequently, an automotive radar system based on this technology offers more advantages, such as better performance with simplified RF components, small size, lightweight, and low cost.

In this application note, we will study FMCW radar technology in a little more detail, particularly the wideband 77 – 81 GHz range, and describe how Keysight’s solutions can help you test your designs to ensure maximum efficiency, reliability, repeatability and most importantly, ensure that your devices work to the highest safety standards possible. Key test parameters discussed include frequency linearity, chirp rate, phase error, power deviation and many more.

What Is FMCW and Why Use It?

FMCW is a type of radar sensor that can continuously transmit signals like a simple continuous-wave (CW) radar. However, unlike CW radar, the operating frequency of FMCW can be changed during the measurement, therefore we can say that the transmitted signal is frequency modulated. This type of radar has been around for many years, but these days the most widely used application is within the automotive radar domain.

So why is FMCW used so widely in automotive radar? Here are the advantages:

  • The potential narrow resolution allows measurement of very small The minimal measurable range is comparable to the transmitted wavelength.
  • Very high accuracy of range
  • Unlike pulsed radar, with FMCW you can simultaneously transmit and measure the received
  • Because the transmit and receive signals are “always on”, there is zero blind range. This means that there is no “blind spot” between transmit and receive, where something could be
  • Pulsed radar systems have high levels of peak power; this is not the case for
  • The received signal is mixed down to lower frequencies, so the processing circuitry and algorithms need not be so complicated.
  • Because of the simpler circuit design, and the capabilities of modern digital signal processors (DSPs), the overall cost and the size and weight of FMCW radar modules are lower than other radar standards.

FMCW – How does it work?

Figure 1aFigure 1a Figure 1b

Figures 1a and 1b give a visual overview of FMCW radar detection. A shift in both time and frequency between the transmit and receive signals determine range and velocity of targets.

The received signal is a time-delayed version of the transmitted signal where the delay, Δt (delay in time), gives the range information and fd (delay in frequency) is the Doppler information. Because the signal is always sweeping through a set frequency band (for example 77 – 81 GHz), at any moment during the sweep, the frequency difference between the transmit and receive signals, f1 and f2, is constant.

Both f1 and f2 are usually called the beat frequency, and there are two measurements made, both on the rising and falling edge of the signal (also called the chirp). In the case of a single target, both the rising and falling beat frequencies are required to ensure the equations can be solved unambiguously. Because the sweep is linear, we can derive the time delay from the beat frequency, and from this also calculate the range.

Figure 2

Figure 2 gives us a more in-depth overview of the different parameters required to make real measurements to calculate the range and velocity.

Δf1 = ktr – fd Δf2 = ktr + fd

k = frequency slope

tr = time delay and ktr is the frequency shift due to time delay.

To calculate the Doppler shift, fd = (2 / lc )*Vr, where Vr is the radical velocity of the object.

To calculate ktr, ktr = ((2 / C)*(Bw / Ts))*R, where C = constant, Bw is the signal bandwidth, Ts is the chirp duration and R is the range to the target

Use the beat frequency for both the rising and falling chirp to determine the velocity and range.

Δf1 = ((2 / lc )*Vr) – (((2 / C)*(Bw / Ts))*R)

Δf2 = ((2 / lc )*Vr) + (((2 / C)*(Bw / Ts))*R)

Key measurements

Here are the key questions you need to ask, to accurately characterize an FMCW radar signal.

  1. Is the sweep bandwidth of the signal correct? Typical automotive radar technology works in the 24 GHz, 77 GHz and 79 GHz frequency bands, and each of these can have a different sweep For example, at 24 GHz, we typically see bandwidths in the order of 100’s of MHz, where at the higher frequencies, bandwidths can be 1 GHz and greater. A traditional swept-tuned spectrum analyzer can sweep across the entire band to view the envelope of the signal.
    1. Why a larger bandwidth at higher frequency bands? Greater bandwidths allow finer resolution, thus allowing much better target separation capability. Using higher center frequencies also increases the Doppler resolution. Therefore, automotive radar standards are moving from 24 GHz to 77/79
  2. Validate the linearity of the FM sweep. Since FMCW is comprised of a frequency sweep, the linearity of that sweep is important. Any ripples or anomalies with the sweep can cause a degradation in the accuracy and resolution of the range and radial
  3. Measure the chirp length and chirp rate. The chirp length and rate affect the ability to determine the radial velocity. Due to possible “ghost targets”, multiple chirps are analyzed to give greater measurement
  4. What about signal power?

System Validation – How Does It Work?

Effective radar system design requires comprehensive system validation – a time-consuming and expensive process. Radar engineers are not only required to validate the radar transmitter performance (signal analysis) but also need to test the radar receiver performance. Radar receivers must be tested with realistic threats, sensitivity and jamming scenarios. Generating ultra-wideband (UWB) signals with Doppler frequency offsets, target echoes and clutter to perform receiver verification can be challenging. Designing and testing UWB radar systems requires a variety of signal sources, target environment setups and measurements. Carefully designed and optimized waveforms are essential to ensure excellent real-world performance.

Signal Generation

Before we show a measurement, we want to show how you can use Keysight signal generators to create an FMCW signal. This is useful if you do not have multiple devices available to test, or if you want to create a signal interference solution to allow testing of your devices in the presence of other (not necessarily FMCW) signals.

In this section, we will introduce signal generation using a Keysight M8195A arbitrary waveform generator (AWG), and then show how you can use option BHP of Keysight’s VSA (vector signal analysis) software to analyze FMCW radar signals. Option BHP is a dedicated option for FMCW signal types and allows easy setup and detection of these signals. While there are multiple configurations available for automotive radar analysis with Keysight, we will be using option 060 which includes the Keysight N9041B, 2 Hz to 110 GHz spectrum analyzer to capture the signal. This allows us to capture the signal without using any external mixing, thus maintaining the highest signal integrity.

The signal generation configuration consists of the three instruments below:

  • M8195A 65 GSa/s Arbitrary Waveform Generator
  • N5183B MXG Microwave Analog Signal Generator, 9 kHz – 40 GHz
  • N9029ACST-U12 WR12 VDI compact Upconverter
Figure 4. Receiver verification instrument setup

Channel 1 Data Out on the M8195A is connected to the intermediate frequency (IF) input of the N9029ACST-U12 via a 6-dB attenuator pad, while the Channel 1 Complement Data Out is terminated with a 50 Ohm load. The IF input power is recommended to be kept at < -15 dBm for linear region operation.

The local oscillator (LO) signal is provided by N5183B analog signal generator. The N9029ACST-U12 upconverter requires a LO frequency that is half of the carrier frequency Fc, thus users can select the LO frequency in the range of 30 – 45 GHz.

A simplified block diagram of the system is shown in the figure below. M8195A AWG provides an IF signal to be mixed with a fixed LO signal from the MXG to produce a millimeter wave signal. The up-conversion process generates a millimeter wave signal with both upper and lower sideband spectrum. The mixing product is either FC – FIF (lower sideband) or FC + FIF (upper sideband), therefore a bandpass filter is needed to remove the unwanted mixing signal. In this example, the IF signal is a linear frequency sweep from 2 GHz – 6 GHz and is mixed with the LO signal at frequency 75 GHz (37.5 GHz x 2) to produce a 77 – 81 GHz FMCW radar signal. As radar signals at the lower 24 GHz frequency range are still widely in use, the same instrumentation can be used at this lower frequency.

Radar

Automotive Radar Automation

One portion of our solution that we have not spoken about yet is the KS83200A Automation Software for Automotive Radar. This is a Keysight Pathwave Test Automation Platform (TAP) based software that can sit on a separate Windows PC or on any Windows-based instrument in your measurement setup. This is a test management suite which can be used to control all hardware and software in your setup, from hardware connections and control to connect to appropriate software such as VSA to make one-click measurements.

In addition to simpler setups, many standards bodies including the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) are working towards conformance and compliance testing for radar devices which require specific instrument setups for each test. Because the KS83200A can control and setup multiple instruments, setting up your Keysight signal analyzer or signal generator to make measurements is made much simpler as the instrument setups for all ETSI standards 3 are built-in, so it is a one-click setup to enable compliance testing. Below you can see a list of some of the ETSI tests available. It simple takes one click to add them to your test plan, and then running the TAP software automates the instrument setup.

RadarFigure 13a. Easy-to-see lists of ETSI-based tests with automated instrument setup

The figures below show how the KS83200A software gives a clear diagram of the hardware setup, depending on the Keysight automotive radar solution configuration. You can also see that the software is capable of controlling the generation hardware including an AWG, signal generator and radar target simulator.

Figure 13b. Analysis measurement hardware setup example RadarFigure 13c. Signal generation hardware setup example

Radar

Measurement Example

For more in-depth information on how to set up this measurement, please refer to the E8740A start-up guide. As mentioned in the radar generation section, there are multiple configurations available, all of which are highlighted in great detail in the above configuration guide, but for this measurement, we will use E8740A-060 which is based on the Keysight N9041B UXA series signal analyzer plus DSOS604A oscilloscope.

The N9041B, has an internal analysis bandwidth of 1 GHz. However, as future radar modules are expected to have up to 4 GHz of bandwidth, this instrument has the capability to route this wideband IF signal external to an oscilloscope of appropriate bandwidth. The VSA software can be used to control the oscilloscope to perform the measurements.

The measurement instrumentation used in this section includes, and is grouped as part number E8740A-060:

  • Keysight N9041B UXA signal analyzer
    • Option-H1G, 1 GHz Analysis Bandwidth
    • Option-CRW, Wideband (> 5 GHz) IF out connector
  • Keysight D/MSOS804A Oscilloscope
    • Option 400
  • Keysight 89600 series Vector Signal Analyzer (VSA) software
    • Keysight 89601200C, Basic vector signal analysis and hardware connectivity
    • Keysight 89601BHPC, FMCW radar analysis option
  • Keysight KS83200A Automation Software for Automotive Radar

The sample signal to be measured is a repeating FMCW modulation signal pattern consisting of multiple repeating linear FM (LFM) up-chirps. The signal comprises of a repeating pattern of LFM up-chirps deviating from -500 MHz to +500 MHz relative to the center frequency (1 GHz total deviation) over a 90 usec time interval. The power level remains on constantly, and there is no time gap between each successive LFM up-chirp occurrence.

The main software component of this solution is the powerful Keysight VSA software, used in conjunction with option BHP (FMCW radar analysis option) which contains the measurement algorithms that will be used to make measurements on the FMCW signals.

Summary and Conclusion

In this application note, we have discussed the modulation schemes and technologies currently being used within the automotive radar space. We gave an overview of the automotive radar signal generation and analysis solutions available from Keysight and a quick snapshot into the capabilities of the VSA software. Using VSA in conjunction with the Keysight N9041B UXA signal analyzer and S-series oscilloscope ensures that your device is working correctly, and also adheres to the strictest tolerances, giving multiple insights to many signal parameters that can affect the end quality of the radar device. Keysight’s patented measurement science enables the performance of all the above-mentioned instruments, whether used separately or in tandem, ensuring your time is spent measuring the parameters of your device and not the specifications of your test equipment.

We also discussed the Keysight signal generation capabilities and the flexibility an AWG gives us: wide bandwidth and multi-channel signal generation which, when used in conjunction with the analysis solution and a radar target simulator, can be used for lab-based interference testing using the AWG to create real-world signals.

Finally, we spoke about the KS83200A software which can be used to control all hardware and software in your setup, from hardware connections and control to connect to appropriate software such as VSA to make one-click measurements. In addition, many standards bodies including the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) are working towards conformance and compliance testing for radar devices which require specific instrument setups for each test – these test setups are one-click setups allowing for less setup time and more time to test.

Courtesy: Keysight Technologies

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Self-driving Vehicles with Human-like Perception

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 15:25

How can mobile robots perceive and understand the environment correctly, even if parts of the environment are occluded by other objects? This is a key question that must be solved for self-driving vehicles to safely navigate in large crowded cities. While humans can imagine complete physical structures of objects even when they are partially occluded, existing artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that enable robots and self-driving vehicles to perceive their environment do not have this capability.

Robots with AI can already find their way around and navigate on their own once they have learned what their environment looks like. However, perceiving the entire structure of objects when they are partially hidden, such as people in crowds or vehicles in traffic jams, has been a significant challenge. A major step towards solving this problem has now been taken by Freiburg robotics researchers Prof. Dr. Abhinav Valada and Ph.D. student Rohit Mohan from the Robot Learning Lab at the University of Freiburg, which they have presented in two joint publications.

The two Freiburg scientists have developed the amodal panoptic segmentation task and demonstrated its feasibility using novel AI approaches. Until now, self-driving vehicles have used panoptic segmentation to understand their surroundings.

This means that they can so far only predict which pixels of an image belong to which “visible” regions of an object such as a person or car, and identify instances of those objects. What they lack so far is being able to also predict the entire shape of objects even when they are partially occluded by other objects next to them. The new task of perception with amodal panoptic segmentation makes this holistic understanding of the environment possible.

“Amodal” refers to the case that any partial occlusion of objects must be abstracted and instead of viewing them as fragments, there should be a general understanding of viewing them as a whole. Thus, this improved ability of visual recognition will lead to enormous progress in improving the safety of self-driving vehicles.

Potential to revolutionize urban visual scene understanding

The researchers have added the new task to established benchmark datasets and made them publicly available. They are now calling on scientists to participate in the benchmarking with their own AI algorithms.

The goal of this task is the pixel-wise semantic segmentation of the visible regions of amorphous background classes such as roads, vegetation, sky, and the instance segmentation of both the visible and occluded object regions of countable classes such as cars, trucks, and pedestrians.

The benchmark and datasets are publicly available on the website, including two proposed novel learning algorithms. “We are confident that novel AI algorithms for this task will enable robots to emulate the visual experience that humans have by perceiving complete physical structures of objects,” Valada explains.

“Amodal panoptic segmentation will significantly help downstream automated driving tasks where occlusion is a major challenge such as depth estimation, optical flow, object tracking, pose estimation, motion prediction, etc. With more advanced AI algorithms for this task, the visual recognition ability of self-driving cars can be revolutionized. For example, if the entire structure of road users is perceived at all times, regardless of partial occlusions, the risk of accidents can be significantly minimized.”

In addition, by inferring the relative depth ordering of objects in a scene, automated vehicles can make complex decisions such as in which direction to move toward the object to get a clearer view. In order to make these visions a reality, the task and its benefits were presented to leading automotive industry professionals at AutoSens, which was held at the Autoworld Museum in Brussels.

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AI Model for Autonomous Driving

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 15:25

A research team consisting of Oskar Natan, a Ph.D. student, and his supervisor, Professor Jun Miura, who are affiliated with the Active Intelligent System Laboratory (AISL), Department of Computer Science Engineering, Toyohashi University of Technology, has developed an AI model that can handle perception and control simultaneously for an autonomous driving vehicle.

The AI model perceives the environment by completing several vision tasks while driving the vehicle following a sequence of route points. Moreover, the AI model can drive the vehicle safely in diverse environmental conditions under various scenarios. Evaluated under point-to-point navigation tasks, the AI model achieves the best drivability of certain recent models in a standard simulation environment.

Autonomous driving is a complex system consisting of several subsystems that handle multiple perception and control tasks. However, deploying multiple task-specific modules is costly and inefficient, as numerous configurations are still needed to form an integrated modular system.

Furthermore, the integration process can lead to information loss as many parameters are adjusted manually. With rapid deep learning research, this issue can be tackled by training a single AI model with end-to-end and multi-task manners. Thus, the model can provide navigational controls solely based on the observations provided by a set of sensors. As manual configuration is no longer needed, the model can manage the information all by itself.

The challenge that remains for an end-to-end model is how to extract useful information so that the controller can estimate the navigational controls properly. This can be solved by providing a lot of data to the perception module to better perceive the surrounding environment. In addition, a sensor fusion technique can be used to enhance performance as it fuses different sensors to capture various data aspects.

However, a huge computation load is inevitable as a bigger model is needed to process more data. Moreover, a data preprocessing technique is necessary as varying sensors often come with different data modalities. Furthermore, the imbalance of learning during the training process could be another issue since the model performs both perception and control tasks simultaneously.

In order to answer those challenges, the team proposes an AI model trained with end-to-end and multi-task manners. The model is made of two main modules, namely perception and controller modules. The perception phase begins by processing RGB images and depth maps provided by a single RGBD camera.

Then, the information extracted from the perception module along with vehicle speed measurement and route point coordinates are decoded by the controller module to estimate the navigational controls. So as to ensure that all tasks can be performed equally, the team employs an algorithm called modified gradient normalization (MGN) to balance the learning signal during the training process.

The team considers imitation learning as it allows the model to learn from a large-scale dataset to match a near-human standard. Furthermore, the team designed the model to use a smaller number of parameters than others to reduce the computational load and accelerate the inference on a device with limited resources.

Based on the experimental result in a standard autonomous driving simulator, CARLA, it is revealed that fusing RGB images and depth maps to form a birds-eye-view (BEV) semantic map can boost the overall performance. As the perception module has better overall understanding of the scene, the controller module can leverage useful information to estimate the navigational controls properly. Furthermore, the team states that the proposed model is preferable for deployment as it achieves better drivability with fewer parameters than other models.

The research team is currently working on modifications and improvements to the model so as to tackle several issues when driving in poor illumination conditions, such as at night, in heavy rain, etc. As a hypothesis, the team believes that adding a sensor that is unaffected by changes in brightness or illumination, such as LiDAR, will improve the model’s scene understanding capabilities and result in better drivability. Another future task is to apply the proposed model to autonomous driving in the real world.

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Mitsubishi Electric India Signs MOU with IIT Madras to R&D Support of Power Semiconductor Solutions

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 15:21

Mitsubishi Electric India Power Semiconductors has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with IIT Madras Research Park to support the programs conducted by the institute for the research and development of sustainable technologies. Rapid innovation and technological upliftment in India are the goals that Mitsubishi Electric aims to achieve for the nation’s consistent development and through this partnership with IIT Madras Research Park, the company took a step ahead to accomplish the same.

Mitsubishi Electric is a pioneer of Semiconductor technology and is a leading brand which is contributing to the advancement of society through its electrical and electronic products & solutions which are suitable for diverse production needs.

IIT Madras Research Park is India’s first university-based park that thrives on innovation and entrepreneurship through industrial and academic interactions which support students as well as tech start-ups to scale up their entrepreneurial skills and advanced learnings. This initiative by Mitsubishi Electric will support and help them by providing components, practical knowledge & workshops to help the students learn the innovative semiconductor technologies and provide Power Semiconductors as per the requirements of the institute. The company has set up a support centre to help resolve queries and provide practical information to support the faculty and students in learning technologies for research and development.

In this collaboration, Mr Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Institute Professor & President of IIT Madras Research Park and IITM Incubation Cell, stated that “Make in India requires Design in India. We need the best components to let our homegrown product compete with imported products and in the international market. Our partnership with Mitsubishi Electric India allows us to move towards this larger goal. Our products need to be developed through the best manufacturing process and have superior quality, while still being low cost.”

Addressing the occasion of the MOU signing, Mr Hitesh Bhardwaj, General Manager, Semiconductor and Devices division, Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt. Ltd. said, “We are delighted to partner with IIT Madras Research Park in its goal to bring technological upliftment in the educational system which can benefit to strengthen the roots of the upcoming generation. Our Power Semiconductor technology holds a prominent position in the global market. We envision bringing technological development in India which is achievable through this initiative of educating the youth and helping them get familiar with the new advancements.”

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Now at Mouser: TI’s BUF802 Buffering Op Amp

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 15:11

Mouser Electronics, Inc. is now stocking the BUF802 high-speed buffering operational amplifier from Texas Instruments (TI). The BUF802 exponentially increases signal bandwidth in data acquisition systems, enabling design engineers to scale front-end designs across multiple data-acquisition applications for a variety of test and measurement applications, including oscilloscopes, active probes and high-frequency data-acquisition systems.

The TI BUF802, available from Mouser Electronics, is a high-input-impedance (Hi-Z), open-loop, unity gain buffer amplifier with a JFET-input stage that offers the industry’s widest bandwidth, capable of supporting frequency bandwidths up to 3.1 GHz. Replacing complex and costly ASIC-based design implementations, the BUF802 integrates features of discrete components in a single chip that increases bandwidth tenfold compared to FET-input amplifiers. This performance lets design engineers leverage higher signal throughput with minimal input settling time, leading to faster throughput and improved accuracy in higher-frequency signal measurement.

For development, Mouser also stocks the BUF802RGTEVM evaluation module, which features two separate signal configurations: a composite loop with a precision amplifier and the standalone BUF802 buffer. The BUF802RGTEVM features single or split supplies and footprints for SMA connectors into all analog inputs and outputs. Additionally, the layout is optimized to reduce parasitic coupling and provide the best signal fidelity across frequency.

To learn more about the BUF802 buffering amplifier. visit www.mouser.com

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Spectrum’s Digitizers and AWGs used in New Underwater Acoustics Laboratory

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 14:47

The Acoustics Research Group at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Brigham Young University, Utah, USA has chosen Spectrum Instrumentation’s leading-edge digitizers and signal generators to form the heart of its new underwater acoustics laboratory. The new lab is a big step forward in research on sound waves travelling through the water as it effectively provides a miniaturized version of the ocean. Experiments are possible on sound wave’s behaviour in different water layers and their reflections from the ocean’s most diverse ground materials such as rocks, sand or mud. Miniaturization means that the highest precision is needed from the measurement equipment as the experimental results are scaled up afterwards to indicate what would happen in the real world.

The new laboratory water tank is rectangular and measures 3.6 m long by 1.2 m wide with a maximum water depth of 0.91 m. The research involves using a hydrophone for the signals or chirps which are generated by an Arbitrary Waveform Generator (AWG), the Spectrum model M2p.6546-x4. This PC-card generates signals with 24 V output swings that are then amplified before being broadcasted by the hydrophones. After travelling through the tank, the signals are detected by another hydrophone and processed by a Spectrum M2p.5932-x4 digitizer card. The transmitter and receiver are each held by a robotic arm that positions and orientates them within the water so that source and receiver can be positioned as required.

The tank enables experiments to be done on how the seafloor affects sound waves bouncing off it. A pure rock bottom will have a different effect compared to sand or mud or layers of different materials. “It is even more complicated,” explained Dr. Traci Neilsen, the professor in charge of the project, “because water is not homogeneous. Changes in temperature and salinity change the sound speed and cause the waves to bend, similar to how a mirage happens. We plan to examine the impact of water temperature changes on machine learning for localizing sound sources. These tank studies are more repeatable, efficient, and cost-effective than ocean experiments and will allow us to develop techniques that can then be tested on ocean data.”

Adam Kingsley, the PhD student responsible for the acquisition software, said: “We chose Spectrum products because they have proved to be able to deliver the extremely high level of precision and synchronization that we require. Because this tank is effectively miniaturisation of a huge body of water, timing precision is vital for the results to be meaningful when scaled up.”

The pair of Spectrum PCIe-cards are housed in an external PCIe chassis in the main control console and accurately synchronized together using a Star-Hub module by Spectrum. The setup has a second identical pair of cards in a second chassis that can be triggered into operation by the first chassis. This scaled experiment requires much higher frequencies in the kilohertz range than would be used in the ocean. The digitizers and AWG cards have a high resolution of 16-bit and can even sample and output at rates of 40 Megasamples per second respectively, while the skew between channels is less than 100 pico-seconds. That delivers the high precision required for the experiments.

The two UR10e robot arms, along with the signal generation and the data acquisition, are all controlled by a custom LabVIEW software program that was created by Adam Kingsley and is referred to as “Easy Spectrum Acoustics Underwater” (ESAU).

A key part of the experimental set-up is to model the open ocean, so special anechoic panels from Precision Acoustics on the sides of the tank reduce the reflections. A significant innovation was the design of a filtration and circulation pump by John Ellsworth, who is BYU Department of Physics and Astronomy’s Research Laboratories Supervisor. This pump keeps the water clean without creating bubbles in the tank, which is a significant source of noise. With all these preparations in place, impulse responses could be measured, making it easier to eliminate noise from readings when an experiment is being done. The precision of the Spectrum PC-cards with a Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) of more than 71 dB ensures that the impulse response elimination gives accurate experimental results.

Dr. Neilsen added: “This new lab was built to enable research students to design and run their own experiments as part of their university studies. My first graduate student, Cameron Vongsawad, and I carefully considered what equipment to purchase because it was important that everything be robust and easy to use as this set-up will be operated for many years. Like many other laboratories, we value the unique five-year warranty that Spectrum Instrumentation provides as it means we can rely on their products for years.”

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Auto EV India 2022 to Harbor the Primary and Leading Technologies for Electric Vehicle Ecosystem

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 11:56

Auto EV India 2022 (an EV Technology Exhibition) is all set to raise its curtains from 9-11 November 2022 at KTPO ground, Bengaluru, India. Deemed to be India’s biggest exposition on Electric vehicles, components, Parts & Materials, batteries, technology and testing, the mega trade event will deliver a strong impetus to local electric vehicle components and technology manufacturers.

From public transportation to e-scooters the entire transport industry is turning electric. India’s electric vehicle market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 90 per cent to touch $150 billion by 2030. The demand incentives provided under FAME II, the launch of state policies, rising fuel prices, tightening emissions laws and increasing awareness of the green environment are a few factors making the sector attractive to larger automobile players and financial investors. Looking at the facts, Auto EV India 2022 is the need of the hour for the larger benefit of the EV sector.

Auto EV India 2022 comes at a pertinent moment when the pandemic has subsided substantially. This is a huge relief not only for the common man but for the industry and economy as a whole too. Finally, the long-disrupted supply chain and the devastating industry from the knockdown punches of the pandemic can stand on its feet again.

The changing macroeconomic environment in the world has spawned several advantages for India relative to other emerging markets, giving birth to new opportunities that the country needs to take advantage of to meet the government’s aim of growing the economy to $5 trillion. The electric vehicle industry is one of the most exciting, significant and necessary areas of innovation today. The global electric vehicle market was valued at $163.01 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $823.75 billion by 2030. India has already shown its keen interest to be a major part of this automotive paradigm shift.

Electrification will also be a key enabler of reducing vehicular emissions, a potent contributor to around 7% of GDP or 14 lakh crores loss every year, reports suggest. Therein lies a huge opportunity for India

By a conservative estimate, around 150+ exhibitors and 25,000+ visitors are expected to showcase and visit the show. Since the market is very vibrant and the world focus is on Electric Vehicles, the number of exhibitors and visitors is likely to increase. Auto EV India is slated to be one of the world’s premier EV Auto and technology shows. A path-breaking event that harnesses the best minds presenting on a single platform to showcase that is the best available in the realm of the automotive world, in terms of products, technologies, concepts and trends.

Auto EV India 2022 is an EV Technology exhibition and is broadly focusing on Drive systems, Rechargeable next-generation Batteries, Motor Technologies, Parts and Materials, Microcontrollers, Driver ICs, Control Modules, Software, Sensors, Measurement and Simulation, Production Facilities, Inverters, Peripherals, Converters, Power Devices, Passive Elements, Heat-Resistant Products, Inverter Evaluation and Testing System, Chargers, Connectors and Harnesses. The event also aims to enable a large showcase of the new EV models &amp; innovative solutions.

The show offers the massive opportunity to meet the manufacturers, suppliers, engineers, influencers and purchase heads focused on the latest developments in technology and the entire ecosystem in the e-mobility industry. Poised to be the most anticipated electric vehicle technology exhibition in India, Auto EV India 2022 will highlight India’s potential to become the world’s most lucrative e-mobility market.

For more information, visit www.autoevexpo.com/

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STMicroelectronics Announces Status of Common Share Repurchase Program

ELE Times - Wed, 09/14/2022 - 10:23

STMicroelectronics announces full details of its common share repurchase program (the “Program”) disclosed via a press release dated July 1, 2021. The Program was approved by a shareholder resolution dated May 27, 2021, and by the supervisory board.

STMicroelectronics announces the repurchase (by a broker acting for the Company) on the regulated market of Euronext Paris, in the period between Jul 18, 2022, to Jul 22, 2022 (the “Period”), of 194,835 ordinary shares (equal to 0.02% of its issued share capital) at the weighted average purchase price per share of EUR 33.2224 and for an overall price of EUR 6,472,890.30.

Below is a summary of the repurchase transactions made in the course of the Period in relation to the ordinary shares of STM, in a detailed form.

Transactions in Period

Dates of transaction Number of shares purchased Weighted average purchase price per share (EUR) Total amount paid (EUR) Market on which the shares were bought (MIC code)
18-Jul-22  40,283  32.4028  1,305,281.99 XPAR
19-Jul-22  40,203  32.2841  1,297,917.67 XPAR
20-Jul-22  38,613  33.3452  1,287,558.21 XPAR
21-Jul-22  37,899  34.0425  1,290,176.71 XPAR
22-Jul-22  37,837  34.1453  1,291,955.72 XPAR
Total for Period  194,835  33.2224  6,472,890.30

Following the share buybacks detailed above, the Company holds a total of 4,412,395 treasury shares, which represents approximately 0.5% of the Company’s issued share capital.

In accordance with Article 5(1)(b) of Regulation (EU) 596/2014 (the Market Abuse Regulation) and Article 2(3) of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1052, a full breakdown of the individual trades in the Program are disclosed on the ST website investors.st.com/buyback-program

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Improved comparators distinguish between A = B = 0 and A = B = 1 states to enable better designs

EDN Network - Tue, 09/13/2022 - 19:00

Traditional digital comparator ICs are electronic analogs of mechanical lever scales. Like their mechanical counterparts, they compare two logical signals and produce an output (typically a voltage level) indicating the relationship of the inputs, i.e., A > B, A < B, and in some cases, A = B.

Wow the engineering world with your unique design: Design Ideas Submission Guide

As useful as they are, these simple comparators have a few problems including:

  1. In order to obtain a visual indication of the comparison, the comparator’s output must be connected to a transistor which drives an LED.
  2. If the comparator is used to monitor the presence of two supply voltages, an error condition occurs if both input voltage sources are switched off. In this instance the digital comparator will indicate a misleading “normal” status, i.e., A = B, even though both supplies are inoperative.

The comparator presented in this DI solves these problems and adds some other useful functionality. It is based on discrete elements, which allows you to achieve the maximum result with a minimum of electronic components. In addition, this solution provides visual indications (with LEDs) of the previously available comparison states (A > B; A < B and A = B), it also indicates the state of the inputs when A = B = 0 and A = B = 1.

Before we get into the details, let’s review some of the differences between analog and digital comparators.

Analog comparators usually have a configurable switching threshold. If the input signal exceeds this threshold, the comparator output signal switches the output level from logical one to logical zero or vice-versa.

Digital comparators allow you to compare the ratio of logical signal levels at inputs A and B. These devices can indicate: A = B; A > B; A < B.

Figures 2-4 show schematics of simple universal-purpose comparators that use multiple LEDs (LED1 to LED3) to indicate the relationships between the levels of inputs A and B as follows:

The equivalent scheme of states can be seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Basic improved comparator equivalent schemes.

Circuit 1: Comparator Realized using BJTs

The comparator shown in Figure 2 is formed by bipolar transistors VT1, VT2, and the three status indicator LEDs mentioned earlier.

 Figure 2 Comparator with bipolar transistors.

The circuit functions as follows:

If there are no logic level signals at inputs A and B, the transistors are closed (off), causing the current through LED3 to flow through resistors R1, R3 and R2, R4. This led indicates the state A = B = 0.

If a unit level logical “1” signal is applied to input A and a logical zero is applied to input B, the VT1 transistor opens (turns ON), causing LED1 to light, indicating that A > B.

If a unit level logical “1” signal is applied to input B and a logical zero is applied to input A, the VT2 transistor opens and the LED2 illuminates, indicating the condition A < B.

If a unit level logical “1” signal is applied to both inputs A and B, both transistors VT1 and VT2 will be open, so that neither of the LEDs will light, indicating the condition A = B = 1.

The comparator, shown on Figure 2, has a switching threshold of about 3 V. This circuit has an interesting feature insofar as the switching of LEDs is not instantaneous, but as a gradual change in their brightness. This characteristic makes this type of comparator convenient to use for monitoring the level of stereo audio signals. It can also be connected to the outputs of a stereo amplifier and used to drive multi-colored LEDs that add a visual effect to musical compositions.

Circuit 2: Improved Comparator Realized using FETs

The digital comparator on field-effect transistors shown in Figure 3 also has a switching threshold of 3 V, which allows it to be used in TTL or CMOS digital devices operating at logic levels from 3 to 15 V, and possibly higher.

If necessary, the comparators’ switching thresholds, in both Figures 2 and 3, can be adjusted by changing the values of the input resistive dividers (i.e., R5 & R6, R7 & R8).

 Figure 3 Comparator with bipolar transistors.

Circuit 3: Improved Comparator with Adjustable Threshold

The digital comparator shown in Figure 4 is based on an A1 LM393 comparator chip and has an adjustable threshold that can be smoothly varied between from 0 to 20 V using potentiometer R3.

Figure 4 Digital comparison based on the A1 LM393 comparator chip.

Conclusions and Applications

The digital comparators shown in Figures 2-4 can fully solve the problem of monitoring two supply voltages because they provide a positive indication of which of the voltages are missing. The power supply voltage of all these comparators is not critical and can almost always use the application’s existing power supply; provided it is 5V or higher.

These improved comparator circuits eliminate the “blind spot” in conventional designs which cannot distinguish between both inputs being at “1” or “0”. All three designs described in this DI also feature built-in LED drive capability.

This type of circuit can also be adapted for some other interesting applications beyond monitoring power supplies including:

  • A two-channel logic tester that allows you to visually monitor the presence and level of logic levels at two points of the digital device being monitored or repaired.
  • A circuit for electrically isolated data transmission when using optronic pairs as LEDs, including those with an open optical channel.
  • A safety interlock which will not allow a mechanism to be activated until two (or more) sensors indicate that it is properly configured.
  • The variable threshold comparator (Circuit 3) can be modified for use as a simple analog alarm for temperature, voltage, or other variables.

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The magnificent seven dos and don’ts of remote working

EDN Network - Tue, 09/13/2022 - 18:24

One of the many side products of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the emergence of working from home as a mainstream working model. However, for me it was nothing new. Aside from a couple of years in the early 2000s, I’ve been home based for 24 years as an FAE, technical manager, and most recently, technical specialist—with four different employers.

For the most part, the benefits to me and my employer have been unquestionable. There are no interruptions—if I need to focus, it’s easy. What is traditionally commuting time can be spent far more constructively. Employers gain the benefit of those things, and the fact that they don’t have to provide permanent office space for me. And so on…   

But it’s not a universal panacea and there are pitfalls to be wary of. While acknowledging Baz Luhrmann’s assertion that “Advice is a form of nostalgia,” in this case I’m looking to share the “ugly parts”—so indulge me for a few minutes, and you might avoid some of them!

1. Know when you’re at work – and when you’re not

The daily commute does more than simply get you into the office. It’s easy to go into the kitchen to make some coffee and find yourself emptying the washing machine while you wait. Next thing you know, you’ve spent an hour doing chores!

Likewise, getting to the end of the day needs a boundary. I’m not advocating downing tools immediately when the clock tells you to. In any professional role, it makes sense to stop when your work reaches a natural point to do so, and there will always be exceptional circumstances demanding extra effort from time to time. But avoid regularly working until late as a matter of course.

2. Have a workplace at home

In drawing a boundary between work life and home life, having a physical location that places you “at work” helps a lot. Ideally that would mean a home office, but that’s not a luxury everyone can aspire to. A dedicated desk or space in a room can be just as effective, and it’s essential if you have hardware laid out.

3. Acquire an office-based buddy

Even the cheeriest of us has ups and downs, and some people are downright moody. It’s not easy to pick your moments when you aren’t there to appreciate the atmosphere. Add in the black art of office politics and picking up the phone to speak to someone in the office can turn into a form of Russian roulette. If you want to have a Big Conversation to with someone in the office, find someone you can trust to test the water.

4. Clarify!

I can’t stress this one enough. A brief conversation with someone about your role for the next two weeks simply won’t do. It’s too easy to wind up being focused on a misinterpretation and waste hours, days or even weeks of effort.

Repeat what you’ve been told to check your interpretation. If it’s a moderately long commitment, put it in writing and ask for acknowledgement. If a written specification seems vague or ambiguous, question it. You can’t know how focused or distracted your project leader or line manager was at the time they assigned you the work, and hence whether you’ve a hurried or flawed version of a specification.

5. Probe!

If sorry seems to be the hardest word for Elton John, then the phrases “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” seem to run pretty close for the rest of us. It’s all very well being assertive and sounding confident, but if the information that comes with that is questionable, then it can waste a great deal of time.

I once worked with someone who would assign me development work associated with hardware/software interfaces. 95% of the time, the guy was an absolute mine of detailed and accurate information. The trouble is, he made no distinction between those occasions when he knew what he was saying was correct, and when he wasn’t quite sure. When he got it wrong, that led to a whole lot of pain.

6. If something seems wrong—call it out

On the occasions you are given duff information, or you’ve misinterpreted a vague specification, it’s easy to blame yourself and assume you’re doing something wrong. I’ve been known to spend hours going around in circles trying to understand why I couldn’t make a hardware interface work, which turned out to be down to erroneous information. That was my fault. Don’t spend too much time on introspection—“What have I done wrong?”—when raising a flag may well get it resolved far quicker.

7. Let technology help you out

Over my 24-year period of working from home, the technology available to assist a disparate and dispersed work force has improved dramatically.

There are countless text chat services available these days, and your employer will almost certainly have a preferred provider. Don’t overlook the simple things. For example, most chat providers have the capability for “read receipts” or similar, which make it clear when someone has read a message. Try to have these enabled for everyone—they make life much easier.

Moving up a level, collaboration software such as SharePoint, Confluence, and Google Workspace allows team members to share information, providing everything from a virtual whiteboard to a structured environment for collaborative project development.

From a software project management perspective, automating requirements traceability using tools such as the TBmanager component of the LDRA tool suite can help to ensure that team members working remotely—even in different time zones—can work together seamlessly.

Most of these points have communication at their heart. Nothing quite replaces the ability to turn to the person next to you and say, “What do you think of this?”—and to time that question to perfection. But if you’re conscious of that limitation and actively try to offset it, the benefits of working from home will outweigh the disadvantages for all concerned.

Mark Pitchford, technical specialist with LDRA Software Technology, has worked with development teams looking to achieve compliant software development in safety and security critical environments, working with standards such as DO-178, IEC 61508, ISO 26262, IIRA and RAMI 4.0.

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New Impressive and Ameliorated High-speed Motor for EVs

ELE Times - Tue, 09/13/2022 - 15:32

The design of the prototype IPMSM type motor was inspired by the shape of the longest railroad bridge in South Korea and has achieved speeds of 100,000 revolutions per minute.

The maximum power and speed achieved by this novel motor have successfully exceeded and doubled the existing high-speed record of laminated IPMSMs (Interior Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor), making it the world’s fastest IPMSM ever built with commercialized lamination materials.

Most importantly, the motor is able to produce a very high power density, which is beneficial for EVs in reducing overall weight and therefore increasing range for any given charge.

The new technology, developed by a team headed by Associate Professor Rukmi Dutta and Dr. Guoyu Chu from the UNSW School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, is an improvement on existing IPMSMs, which are predominantly used in traction drive of electric vehicles.

An IPMSM type motor has magnets embedded within its rotors to create strong torque for an extended speed range. However, existing IPMSMs suffer from low mechanical strength due to thin iron bridges in their rotors, which limits their maximum speed.

But the UNSW team has patented a new rotor topology that significantly improves robustness, while also reducing the number of rare earth materials per unit of power production.

Bridging the future

The new design is based on the engineering properties of the Gyopo rail bridge, a double-tied arch structure in South Korea, as well as a compound-curve-based mechanical stress distribution technique.

And the motor’s impressive power density potentially offers improved performance for electric vehicles where weight is extremely important.

“One of the trends for electric vehicles is for them to have motors which rotate at higher speeds,” says Dr. Chu.

“Every EV manufacturer is trying to develop high-speed motors and the reason is that the nature of the law of physics then allows you to shrink the size of that machine. And with a smaller machine, it weighs less and consumes less energy, and therefore that gives the vehicle a longer range.

“With this research project we have tried to achieve the absolute maximum speed, and we have recorded over 100,000 revolutions per minute and the peak power density is around 7kW per kilogram.

“For an electric vehicle motor we would actually reduce the speed somewhat, but that also increases its power. We can scale and optimize to provide power and speed in a given range—for example, a 200kW motor with a maximum speed of around 18,000 rpm that perfectly suits EV applications.

“If an electric vehicle manufacturer, like Tesla, wanted to use this motor then I believe it would only take around six to 12 months to modify it based on their specifications.

“We have our own machine design software package where we can input the requirements of speed, or power density and run the system for a couple of weeks and it gives us the optimum design that satisfies those needs.”

The new IPMSM prototype motor was developed using the UNSW team’s very own AI-assisted optimization program which evaluated a series of designs for a range of different physical aspects—namely electrical, magnetic, mechanical, and thermal.

The program evaluates 90 potential designs, then selects the best 50 percent of options to generate a new range of designs and so on, until the optimum is achieved. The final motor is the 120th generation analyzed by the program.

Apart from electric vehicle, the motor has many other potential applications. One of them is large heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems which require high-speed compressors to use a new form of refrigerant which significantly reduces the impact on global warming.

It can also be utilized in high-precision CNC machines that are highly demanded by the aviation and robot industries. The UNSW high-speed motor technology can allow such high-precision CNC machines to mill or drill with minimal diameters.

Another application is as an IDG (Integrated Drive Generator) inside an aircraft engine to provide electrical power for aircraft systems.

The UNSW team’s new motor also offers a significant cost advantage over existing technology and uses less rare earth materials such as neodymium.

“Most high-speed motors use a sleeve to strengthen the rotors and that sleeve is usually made of high-cost material such as titanium or carbon fiber. The sleeve itself is very expensive and also needs to be precisely fitted and that increases the manufacturing cost of the motor,” Dr. Chu says.

“Our rotors have very good mechanical robustness, so we don’t need that sleeve, which reduces the manufacturing cost. And we only use around 30% of rare earth materials, which includes a big reduction in the material cost—thus making our high-performance motors more environmentally friendly and affordable.”

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Lasers that could make Tech Even more Prompt

ELE Times - Tue, 09/13/2022 - 15:14

Lasers have become a major part of our day-to-day lives. From phones and tablets to self-driving cars and data communication—even the information you’re reading right now is likely being delivered to you via lasers.

The technology’s applications are so broad even the researchers who deal with lasers daily are continuously amazed.

Among them is University of Queensland Research Fellow Dr. Martin Plöschner from the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (ITEE).

“I’ve been working with lasers for the past 15 years and yet I’m often surprised to find them in the most unexpected places,” Dr. Plöschner said.

“In many of their applications, lasers operate in part of the spectrum which is invisible to our eyes.

“And what the eyes can’t see, the mind often doesn’t know about.

“If lasers operated more in the visible part of the spectrum, the world around us would be a magnificent laser show.”

One such hidden application of lasers is optical data communication—where laser light zips through optical fibers to deliver information.

But the ever-increasing demand for faster and more frequent access to data is pushing optical fiber networks around the world to their limit—the so-called “capacity crunch.”

Dr. Joel Carpenter from UQ’s ITEE said the laser light pulses relayed along the glass or plastic fibers travel at different speeds and can overlap, slowing down the process.

“Imagine yelling to a friend through a long concrete pipe,” Dr. Carpenter said. “Your message will distort depending on how much the pipe echoes, and you’ll also have to wait for the echoes to die down from one message before you can send the next.

“It’s a similar problem in large groups of computer servers, with the amount of echo dependent on the shape and color of the lasers being launched into the optical fiber.”

Measuring the properties of lasers is vital to making improvements, but there has been no method to fully capture this complexity.

Until now.

Dr. Plöschner, Dr. Carpenter and their team—with expertise in laser beam manipulation, shaping and characterization—were keen to solve the problem.

They partnered with leading laser manufacturer II-VI Inc. and spent three years working on a way to make lasers faster and improve their performance.

They developed a tool that measures the output of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) and allows the examination of the large amounts of data their light carries.

“The system itself is about the size of a shoebox and is simply inserted into the path of the laser beam,” Dr. Plöschner said.

“It can tell us how the laser beam evolves in time and changes its shape and color.

“That information is crucial to how the beam travels through the fiber link.”

The results can now be used to improve the next generation of lasers.

“Our tool will make it possible to identify the beam features that contribute to ‘pulse spreading’ in the optical link, which slows down data,” Dr. Plöschner said.

“Laser engineers can then design lasers without these rogue features, leading to optical links with higher speed and longer distance of operation.

“And any tool that can facilitate faster data transfer over longer distances is helpful.”

Dr. Plöschner said improved laser technology is set to benefit a range of industries, from telecommunications to security and car manufacturing.

“Autonomous cars use lasers to make a 3D image of the scene to help them navigate through traffic or reverse park in a tight spot,” he said.

“And you’re scanned by hundreds of tiny lasers every time you use facial recognition to unlock your smartphone.

“It comes as no surprise then that there’s a huge demand to make lasers with improved performance.

“This breakthrough will unlock an information treasure trove of optical beams.”

The post Lasers that could make Tech Even more Prompt appeared first on ELE Times.

Robot that Draws Circuits with Conductive Ink

ELE Times - Tue, 09/13/2022 - 15:13

Recent technological advancements have paved the way for the creation of increasingly sophisticated robotic systems designed to autonomously complete missions in different familiar and unfamiliar environments. The robot is meant to operate in uncertain or remote environments and could greatly benefit from the ability to actively acquire electrical power from its surroundings.

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Imperial College London, and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign have recently developed a new robotic system that can visually rearrange its surroundings to receive the maximum amount of energy from a given power source. This robot set is to be presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics works by drawing electrical circuits using conductive ink.

“Nietzsche claims that human’s primal instinct is power, and survival is just a condition sine qua non we couldn’t reach that final goal. Based on this idea, we started to devise experimental settings where our robot could not only act to survive but to thrive.”

In their first study focusing on this topic, Andre Rosendo, Xianglong Tan, and Weijie Lyu tried to devise a system that could power itself merely by painting electric circuits. In their new work, they combined this circuit printing system with a robotic gripper, creating a robot that can perform a repertoire of actions aimed at attaining greater power (i.e., higher voltages) from its environment and thus surviving in unfavorable environments.

The team tested their robot in simulations of different real-world scenarios, including tasks in which it had to avoid physical obstacles or regions that would discontinue its drawn circuits. They then also tested the robot in a real-world setting, to further evaluate its capabilities.

“Our robot starts each experiment with a battery, and its energy source dwindles as it moves (and we also ‘leak’ it to emulate natural energy losses due to homeostasis),” the student Xianglong Tan explained. “The robot goes through a series of virtual training episodes, with a Red terminal (VCC) that needs to be connected to another red terminal near its body, and a Black terminal (Ground) that needs to match the black one so that the current can flow towards its battery.”

To prevent their robot from simply moving in a simple straight line, Rosendo and his colleagues added obstacles in its surroundings, both in simulated and real-world trials. Some of these obstacles, such as foam cubes, could easily be removed by the robots, while others were connected to a grounding plate that “sucked” the electrical power away when a circuit touched it.

The team found that their robot rapidly and effectively learned to overcome these obstacles to survive and maximize the received energy. This meant rearranging obstacles or bridging areas in its surroundings that it could not draw in.

“I think we are taking steps towards adaptive behaviors for robots,” Rosendo said. “Humans are capable of adapting, adjusting their behavior to match the one required in new situations, and gradually improving as their knowledge matures. We could be talking about sports, tasks or even space missions: before being on top of our game we spend our initial efforts understanding the new rules to, later, improve and go beyond. Robots nowadays struggle to overcome malfunctions and learning to adapt to keep themselves functional is a skill that they should mimic from us.”

The adapting robot created by Rosendo and his colleagues could have numerous advantages, as it can autonomously maximize energy in its surroundings and continuously keep itself functional by creating new electric circuits. In the future, this recent work could inspire the development of other robotic systems that can survive and thrive in complex environments without the need for new circuits or human supervision.

“We are now thinking about next steps to build on our work and keep this experiment interesting, such as complicating the task and devising a ‘battery swap’ system to make the experiment more realistic,” Tan added.

The post Robot that Draws Circuits with Conductive Ink appeared first on ELE Times.

Researchers Find a Way to Manipulate Light at the Nanoscale

ELE Times - Tue, 09/13/2022 - 15:12

If you’re going to break a rule with style, make sure everybody sees it. That’s the goal of engineers at Rice University who hope to improve screens for virtual reality, 3D displays, and optical technologies in general.

Gururaj Naik, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, and Applied Physics Graduate Program alumna Chloe Doiron found a way to manipulate light at the nanoscale that breaks the Moss rule, which describes a trade-off between a material’s optical absorption and how it refracts light.

Apparently, it’s more like a guideline than an actual rule, because a number of “super-Mossian” semiconductors do exist. Fool’s gold, aka iron pyrite, is one of them.

Naik, Doiron, and researcher Jacob Khurgin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University, find iron pyrite works particularly well as a nanophotonic material and could lead to better and thinner displays for wearable devices.

More important is that they’ve established a method for finding materials that surpass the Moss rule and offer useful light-handling properties for displays and sensing applications.

“In optics, we’re still limited to a very few materials,” Naik said. “Our periodic table is really small. But there are so many materials that are simply unknown, just because we haven’t developed any insight on how to find them.”

“That’s what we wanted to show: There are physics that can be applied here to short-list the materials, and then help us look for those that can get us to whatever the industrial needs are,” he said.

“Let’s say I want to design an LED or a waveguide operating at a given wavelength, say 1.5 micrometers,” Naik said. “For this wavelength, I want the smallest possible waveguide, which has the smallest loss, meaning that can confine light the best.”

Choosing a material with the highest possible refractive index at that wavelength would normally guarantee success, according to Moss. “That’s generally the requirement for all-optical devices at the nanoscale,” he said. “The materials must have a bandgap slightly above the wavelength of interest because that’s where we begin to see less light getting through.”

“Silicon has a refractive index of about 3.4, and is the gold standard,” Naik said. “But we started asking if we could go beyond silicon to an index of 5 or 10.”

That prompted their search for other optical options. For that, they developed their formula to identify super-Mossian dielectrics.

“In this work, we give people a recipe that can be applied to the publicly available database of materials to identify them,” Naik said.

The researchers settled on experiments with iron pyrite after applying their theory to a database of 1,056 compounds, searching in three bandgap ranges for those with the highest refractive indices. Three compounds along with pyrite were identified as super-Mossian candidates, but pyrite’s low cost and long use in photovoltaic and catalytic applications made it the best choice for experiments.

“Fool’s gold has traditionally been studied in astrophysics because it’s commonly found in interstellar debris,” Naik said. “But in the context of optics, it’s little-known.”

He noted iron pyrite has been studied for use in solar cells. “In that context, they showed optical properties in the visible wavelengths, where it’s really lossy,” he said. “But that was a clue for us, because when something is extremely lossy in the visible frequencies, it’s likely going to have a very high refractive index in the near-infrared.”

So the lab made optical-grade iron pyrite films. Tests of the material revealed a refractive index of 4.37 with a band gap of 1.03 electron volts, surpassing the performance predicted by the Moss rule by about 40%.

That’s great, Naik said, but the search protocol could—and likely will—find materials that are even better.

“There are many candidates, some of which haven’t even been made,” he said.

The post Researchers Find a Way to Manipulate Light at the Nanoscale appeared first on ELE Times.

The u-blox ZED-F9R-03B adds Support for Additional GNSS Correction Services

ELE Times - Tue, 09/13/2022 - 12:41

u-blox has released a new firmware update which extends the range of positioning augmentation services supported by its ZED-F9R high precision GNSS (global navigation satellite system) dead reckoning modules. Thanks to a firmware update, the u-blox ZED-F9R-03B adds support for SPARTN 2.0 and QZSS CLAS correction services, extending the geographical market reach of the ZED-F9R and increasing the scalability of applications using the module.

The RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) capable ZED-F9R module was designed for use in autonomous automotive and industrial applications that require simple and efficient implementation and where rapid access to highly accurate positioning data is key, even in challenging signal environments as found in dense cities. Typical applications include slow-moving use cases such as robotic lawnmowers and shared e-scooters.

The module has an integrated inertial measurement unit (IMU) for RTK positioning and employs sophisticated algorithms to fuse the IMU data with GNSS measurements, wheel ticks, correction service data, and a vehicle dynamics model to provide centimetre-level positioning accuracy even in situations where GNSS alone would fail. It is based on the u-blox F9 multi-band GNSS receiver platform, which concurrently tracks up to four GNSS constellations, providing high-quality positioning accuracy.

“As our new ZED-F9R-03B high precision GNSS module also supports SPARTN 2.0 and QZSS CLAS, it enables designers to bring products that need dead reckoning technology to wider geographical markets, increasing economies of scale. PointPerfect delivers correction data based on the SPARTN protocol, a service that is available from u-blox.” says Alex Ngi, Product Manager, Industrial Navigation and Robotics, Product Center Positioning at u-blox.

The post The u-blox ZED-F9R-03B adds Support for Additional GNSS Correction Services appeared first on ELE Times.

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