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High stakes decisions

John Day

John Day

Posted Dec 27, 2010

Intersil has a long if somewhat convoluted history in the semiconductor business but for the past few years it’s kept a relatively low profile in automotive electronics. That may be changing.

At Convergence in October Intersil announced a lithium-ion battery management system (ISL 78600) and safety monitor (ISL 78601). More recently it introduced a serializer/deserializer (SerDes) transceiver (ISL 76321) for rear-view safety systems.

Intersil says its battery management system has a 14-bit converter that can scan 12 channels in less than 250 microseconds. By Intersil’s calculation, 11 to 14 devices per-vehicle would be sufficient to manage mid-size hybrid electric vehicles with 126 to 168 cells.

A differential daisy-chain architecture permits the use of twisted pair wiring to stack multiple battery packs together while protecting the system against hot plugging and high voltage transients. The companion 12-channel battery monitor chip detects temperature and cell balancing faults as well as external faults, including open wire and over/under voltage.

Most if not all firms that specialize in analog and mixed signal devices have or are developing products for managing lithium batteries. The devices are critically important for hybrid and electric vehicle development and choosing a supplier must be a high stakes decision.

Intersil’s SerDes transceiver targets active and passive safety applications. Like other devices in the space, including a chipset from National Semiconductor (DS90UB901Q serializer and DS90UB902Q deserializer), Intersil’s ISL76321 can send bidirectional I2C control data and video data over the same shielded twisted pair (STP) cable. With a device at each end, developers can establish a serial data link between a remote video camera and a central control unit.

Chips for applications like these are similar but not identical, and in choosing one chip over another, engineers have to weigh the value of extra performance features against the cost of implementing a solution. It’s a complex calculation with a lot riding on the outcome.

lithium ion battery management system, National, Intersil, serializer/deserializer, National Semiconductor, SERDES

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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