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March 11, 2014 / Panasonic

Moving Forward With Bluetooth Low Energy

While Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) may not be part of your electronic designs just yet, odds are that will soon change. This wireless connectivity technology has experienced explosive growth over the past three years and now provides low-power connectivity to millions of electronic devices like smart watches, fitness trackers, smart phone accessories and medical monitors. Thanks to upcoming technical enhancements, BLE is poised to become even more pervasive in the next generation of consumer electronics and the emerging Internet of Things.

Many of the enhancements have been incorporated in Bluetooth 4.1, a recent update to the core specification. Among them are support for more efficient bulk data transfers, greater flexibility in communications between devices, simultaneous dual-mode roles and first steps towards IP-based communications. Taken together, these technical improvements make BLE even more attractive from power consumption, performance and cost standpoints.


March 3, 2014 / Rob O'Connor

Understanding Polymer and Hybrid Capacitors

Capacitors may seem simple enough, but specifying them has actually grown more complex in recent years. The reason why comes down to freedom of choice. The universe of capacitors has expanded greatly over the past few years, in large part because of capacitor designs that take advantage of advances in conductive polymers.

Hybrid-Cap_1000x1000These advanced capacitors sometimes use conductive polymers to form the entire electrolyte. Or the conductive polymers can be used in conjunction with a liquid electrolyte in a design known as a hybrid capacitor. Either way, polymer-based capacitors offer a performance edge over conventional electrolytic and ceramic capacitors when it comes to:

  • Electrical characteristics.
  • Stability.
  • Longevity.
  • Reliability.
  • Safety.

The various polymer and hybrid capacitors have distinct sweet spots in terms of their ideal voltages, frequency characteristics, environmental conditions and other application requirements. In our latest white paper, we’ll show you how to identify the best uses for each type of advanced capacitor. We’ll also highlight specific applications in which a polymer or hybrid capacitor will outperform traditional electrolytic or even ceramic capacitors.



October 9, 2013 / Aiman Kiwan

Passive Motion Sensor FAQ

Many of the automation systems that increasingly appear in our daily lives have a fundamental need to sense the presence and movement of human beings. Whether that system simply shuts off the lights to save energy at home or triggers an emergency response in a health care facility, accurate motion sensing is a crucial requirement.

Passive infrared (IR) sensors are a well-known, cost-effective motion sensing technology for these applications. Getting the most out of these sensors, however, requires some engineering expertise. In this post, we’ll examine some of most commonly asked questions about the capabilities of our passive IR sensors:

  • How do IR motion sensors work? These sensors discern human movement by detecting incident IR radiation, which varies in proportion to the temperature difference between human body surfaces and the surrounding environment. The sensors, in essence, can distinguish the thermal signature emitted by a human being from the thermal signature emitted by walls, ceilings, floors and other inanimate objects.
  • What infrared wavelengths are detected? Our most capable IR sensors detect infrared wavelengths 5 µm or longer. The human body emits 10 µm wavelengths.
  • What do I need to know about ambient temperature? Pansonic IR Sensors operate in a wide ambient temperature range from –20 to 60ºC and are designed for indoor use only. Outside that operating temperature range, the sensor may output false detection signals. Keep in mind that changes in ambient temperature can also affect sensor performance. For example, detection can be more difficult in the summer because there tends to be a smaller difference between body and ambient temperatures than in the winter.
  • Does clothing affect sensor performance? The amount and color of clothing can make a small difference in sensor performance. Because clothing affects the amount of IR radiation emitted by the human body, it changes the differential between human body and ambient temperatures. The effect of clothing, however, is minor compared to the influence of ambient temperature.
  • What is the maximum sensing distance—and can it be adjusted? The best IR sensors have a nominal sensing distance that can range from 2 to 12 meters, depending on the model. This distance specification does not necessarily represent the farthest distance the sensor can detect. Instead, it’s the maximum distance at which sensing is guaranteed. IR motion sensors do not have an adjustable distance setting, but you can limit the sensor’s detection range by mounting it at an angle that blocks its field of view.
  • How fast are IR motion sensors? IR sensors have a response time of about 0.5 seconds. The response time represents the interval between the actual movement and the detection of that movement. The duration of the sensor output signal after detection depends on the speed of movement and the magnitude of temperature difference. It usually averages to at least 10mS
  • What types of applications should use IR motion sensing? This type of sensor is particularly well-suited to applications that require a wide detection area, even if that detection area that extends to walls and floors. IR motion sensors also excel at detecting even the slightest motions.
  • And what applications should not? The broad detection area and sensitivity of IR sensors can also work against them in some applications. For example, these sensors do not offer adjustable distance settings required by some automation systems. They can also confuse humans and small animals. And their detection capabilities can be diminished in proximity to intense heat sources or materials that block IR radiation. In these cases, alternative sensing technologies, such as area reflective sensors, can be a good alternative.
  • Are there different types of IR sensors for different tasks? Sensors come in different versions to meet specific detection requirements. At Panasonic, for example, our MP IR sensors come in seven versions. The standard standard sensor offers a wide horizontal detection ranges. Another sensor type specifically targets slight motion. The third type is a spot sensor which can limit the detection range—in small spaces, for example. The fourth offers a wide 12-meter detection area for use in large spaces. And the fifth version addresses battery-operated applications by offering power consumption as low as 1 µA. Two other low power models offer 2 and 6 µA, respectively.
September 5, 2013 / Jane Awittor

Selecting Reliable Connectors For Mobile Devices

If you’ve spent any time looking for the right connector to use in a smart phone or other mobile device, you might believe that all fine-pitch, low-profile connectors are created equal. But they’re not.

In spite of similarities in package size and pitch, at least on their datasheets, these connectors differ in subtle ways that can affect their reliability during the assembly process and in use. Here are the key technical factors to consider when looking for a reliable connector for use in mobile devices:

  • Tolerates mechanical forces. The board-to-board and board-to-FPC connections within mobile devices have to withstand substantial forces–from insertion forces during assembly to shock and vibration forces in use. A robust contact geometry is the first line of defense against these forces.
  • Contains the solder. The low-profile connectors used in mobile devices are susceptible to damage from solder rise. The best connectors will provide an integrated nickel barrier to keep the solder in its place.
  • Resists corrosion. Corrosive gases generated during the assembly process can damage connectors, ultimately shortening their life. Look for connectors with an anti-corrosion surface treatment.
  • Stays in alignment. Coplanarity of the connector pins may not be the most obvious product selection factor, but it directly affects insertion force and the connector’s ability to withstand repeated insertions. Look for connectors with the best coplanarity specs.

We’ve designed our fine-pitch connectors with all these technical factors in mind. Our Tough Contact construction is built around a metal bellows whose spring forces strike a balance between easy insertion and resistance to shock loads. The Tough Contact design also features a notched cross section to ensures a high-force, edge-to-edge contact between connector halves. This v-shaped notch has the side benefit of sealing out contamination from flux or other particulate. Our Tough Contact system also features an integrated nickel solder barrier and a proprietary anti-corrosive treatment. Our connectors also offer a best-of-class coplanarity of 0.08 maximum.

Our connector line for mobile devices includes board-to-board and board-to-FPC products starting as small as 0.35mm pitch to 0.8mm pitch and mated height of 0.6mm.

For help selecting a product for your application, contact one of our application engineers.

August 26, 2013 / Aiman Kiwan

Working With Optically-Isolated Relays

PMOS_GroupNot so long ago, all relays performed their switching duties through electromechanical means. Today, however, engineers can also opt for solid-state relays that use semiconductors to switch their output circuits. The choice between traditional electromechanical relays and the solid-state varieties comes often comes down to reliability and performance.

With no moving parts, solid-state relays avoid all the obvious mechanical failure modes associated with traditional relays. They also tend to offer desirable electrical characteristics and design advantages including:

  • Low power consumption.
  • Low leakage current.
  • Stable on-resistance over lifetime.
  • High reliability with extremely long life.
  • Small size.
  • Fast switching speeds.
  • High vibration and shock resistance.
  • No contact bounce or switching noise.

Keep in mind that solid-state are not created equal when it comes to these performance advantages. Optically-isolated relays, in particular, can outshine other solid-state devices that use electrical or magnetic operating principles.

To learn more about the operating principles of optically-isolated relays, how to apply them in different applications and how to maximize their long life cycles, download our white paper.