Texas Instruments have released a LaunchPad development kit to support its new MSP439FR59x family of microcontrollers. They use inbuilt non-volatile FRAM (Ferroelectric RAM) memory which offers much lower power requirements compared to conventional EEPROM and Flash technologies. This allows the microcontroller to run at 100 µA/MHz active and 450 nA standby with RTC. To underline its low energy needs the complete development kit can be powered from its on-board 100 mF capacitor which stores enough energy for 20 hrs operation.

This family of devices are the lowest-power microcontrollers in the world and offer a range of integrated analog and digital peripherals from a 12-bit differential ADC to an AES hardware accelerator. These devices are also enabled by EnergyTrace++ technology which facilitates system power-requirement debugging, offering current profiles from nA to mA and including details about both CPU and peripheral states. Texas have also included a GUI which should get you up and running with LaunchPad very quickly. It features two modes:

  • Live Temperature Mode: Data is measured using the on-chip temperature sensor of the MSP430FR5969 and streamed back to the GUI via backchannel UART.
  • FRAM Logging Mode: This mode showcases the data logging capabilities of FRAM by disconnecting from the computer and using the on-board super capacitor for power. In this mode, the microcontroller will go to sleep and wake up at 5 second intervals to log temperature and capacitor voltage data. These values can be uploaded and graphed when reconnected to the computer.

A 1.3 inch 96 x 96 pixel Sharp LCD display booster pack incorporating 2 capacitive touch sliders together with a graphics library is also available as an add-on for the LaunchPad. The LaunchPad development kit retails at around $30.