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Prototyping board developed

UA News Services

Two University of Arizona electrical engineers collaborated with Western Design Center Inc., an electronics manufacturer in Mesa, to design and build a microelectronics prototyping board in a project funded by the National Science Foundation.

The new board allows students and researchers to rapidly build and test mixed-signal circuits commonly used in cellular phones, other communication devices and power supplies.

Mixed-signal circuits use analog and digital circuitry. Analog uses less power but is more prone to interference, so having the ability to switch back and forth from analog to digital means devices can operate on less power without losing reliability.

Traditionally, a student or researcher had to design a mixed-signal circuit, simulate it on a computer with circuit design software, and then send the design out to be fabricated before it could be tested in the real world.

“There are significant costs and delays involved in getting chips made,” said William D. Mensch Jr., chief executive officer of Western Design Center Inc. “With this board, you can test the circuit immediately, reconfigure it, and it’s even run-time configurable. That means you can change the circuit on the fly, while the system is running, to see the immediate effects of the change.”

The circuit is based on a Motorola microchip UA Professor Olgierd Palusinski helped to develop while working with Motorola engineers. He and doctorate student Grzegorz Zareba designed the mixed-signal prototyping board around the Motorola chip.

Sarma Vrudhula of the Center for Low Power Electronics, a joint venture of UA and Arizona State University, helped secure the NSF grant and worked on some of the mixed-signal aspects of the project.

The funding for the project was provided by a Small Firm Innovative Research Grant. These grants are designed to encourage small firms to develop and market innovative products.

– Compiled by Jennie Faries