Floating gate analog is for threshold manipulation too

-December 23, 2009

I had already turned in my Hot Technology story on analog floating gates when I learned of yet another cool application. Advanced Linear Devices, ALD, uses floating gates in their EPAD technology to make zero-threshold FETs. I was more than a bit embarrassed that I missed this. I have been briefed several times by Robert Chao, the ALD president, and I knew they made low offset comparators, low bias current op-amps, and energy harvesting modules. I knew that the zero-threshold FET was an important technology to make those parts. I just assumed they got the FET thresholds down by ion implanting, the way the power FET people make logic-level power FETs. Robert explained that they use some implanting, some geometry tricks in the layout, and floating gates to make the signal FETs in their parts work the way they need to. So now there is yet another cool thing to use analog floating gates:

Intersil voltage references

GTronix analog signal processing

Nuvoton voice recording chips

Neural network research

ALD zero-threshold FETs.

I was delighted to find so many cool applications for analog floating gate technology. As is typical of analog, there are places to use it and places where you might be better off with digital. With all the above parts, one big deal that analog floating gates do is make very low micro power and nanopower circuits with much better performance than digital. In the next decade we are going to see power consumption be a key differentiator not just in our handheld products, but in everything from cars to TV sets to cell phone base stations. Keep your eyes on analog.

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