Under the Hood
Posted date : Dec 3, 2008

Atmel is putting SOI-based smart-power into chips for car body electronics and powertrain applications.

Atmel’s automotive division leverages the company’s innovative mixed-signal BCD-on-SOI technology, known as SMART-I.S.®. This has enabled a new range of high-end chips for automotive electronic products that are smaller, smarter, more cost-effective and more versatile than ever before.

“ SOI is a key enabler for Atmel’s leading-edge automotive chips.”

Michel Madore, Collaborative Programs Manager,
Atmel Rousset

Figure 1. Atmel’s SOI (SMART-I.S.) technology enables a significant reduction in chip size and cost. (Courtesy: Atmel)

Figure 2. SEM cross-section of a high-voltage DMOS-on-SOI (SMART-I.S.) chip. (Courtesy: Atmel)

SMART-I.S. combines bipolar, CMOS and DMOS technology. Since it can handle both analog and digital power, power drivers and small microcontroller cores can be integrated on a single chip. These “smart-power” devices are now used for many body electronics and powertrain devices, enabling maximum integration, extended EMC performance and high temperature capabilities.

Here are some recent examples.

Maximum Reliability

Atmel’s integrated driver ICs (the ATA6833 and ATA6834 chips) target brushless motor applications such as controlling flaps in fuel pumps, turbo chargers or exhaust gas recirculation systems. These mechatronic solutions are continuously operating right next to the hot engine, so the chips require maximum reliability. Other uses for these driver ICs include premium-class convenience electronics such as power window or seat adjustment applications.

Atmel’s driver ICs ATA6833/34 are the industry’s first to integrate watchdog, voltage regulator, and LIN interface functionality in a single IC, which reduces overall system costs by about a third.

Car & Truck

Atmel’s newest low-cost, half-bridge driver IC (the ATA6836) has a high-voltage capability (up to 40V), so it can be used in both passenger car applications (such as flap control in air conditioning systems) and in 24V truck or industrial applications. Another new duel-use driver IC (the ATA6826) is designed to control two DC motors or up to three different loads via a microcontroller. It targets body electronic systems such as mirror positioning and climate control.

In-Vehicle Networking

Unlike standalone transceivers, Atmel’s LIN system basis chips (SBCs, the ATA6622, ATA6622 and ATA6626) are highly integrated. (LIN is an industry standard for in-vehicle networking, especially for decentralized implementations.) A single chip includes a voltage regulator plus a watchdog, enabling a very small footprint and a 25% reduction in system cost. Atmel credits its SOI technology with its benchmark-setting EMI performance and best-in-class ESD protection.
These chips target “comfort” applications such as door modules, seat control or intelligent sensors, as well as powertrain applications such as engine control systems.

SPOT On Research

To ensure its place at the forefront of automotive innovation, Atmel is leading a European Medea+ research program called the SPOT-2 project (#2T205). The three-year program, which will conclude in 2010, aims to develop innovative and cost-effective smart-power safety applications for European car manufacturers and global markets. SOI is a major aspect of this work. Partners include other leading chip manufacturers, as well as carmakers and suppliers.

With its growing scope of SOI-enabled smart-power technology, Atmel is helping pave the way for the new generation of safer, more economical, more efficient and more convenient vehicles.

Figure 3. Atmel’s SOI-based LIN SBCs can be used to control body electronics throughout the car (Courtesy: Atmel)

Why SOI?

Compared to bulk BCDMOS, Atmel has found that its SOI-based SMART-I.S. technology benefits include:

  • significant chip size reduction, which in turn reduces packaging costs and overall system costs
  • improved EMC: drastic reduction in the influence of parasitic effects
  • reduced standby current no latch-up effects
  • high energy efficiency: leakage current is up to two orders of magnitude lower
  • very high temperature operation (up to TJunction =200°C)
  • 30% reduction in on-resistance (Ron) of the driver stages
  • improved device characteristics, since the PN-junction isolation is replaced by oxide isolation.

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