Sensor Solutions: Focus on ams AG

By Carolyn Mathas

Contributed By Hearst Electronic Products


Formerly called austriamicrosystems AG, ams AG supplies high-performance analog semiconductors that offer extreme precision, accuracy, dynamic range, sensitivity, and ultra-low power consumption.

ams claims the industry's broadest range of high-performance absolute and incremental rotary and linear magnetic encoder ICs, ranging from 8 to 14-bit resolution, with serial digital, PWM and analog outputs.

While the company’s products also include sensor interfaces, ambient light, proximity and color sensors, power management ICs, and wireless ICs for consumer, industrial, medical, mobile communications, and automotive markets, engineers know it best for what it does to and for our smartphones.

The ams color sensor comes complete with LEDs, light detectors, and RGB clear or RBG cells; it detects ambient light temperature, and makes the screen react so that the color is deep, rich, and eye-popping. The company is betting heavily on AMOLED displays, and its efforts are paying off: ams indicates that Samsung uses the chip in the Galaxy S5, and Dell embeds the sensor into high-end laptops.

Examples in this segment are the TCS3200 and TCS3210 (Figure 1) programmable color light-to-frequency converters. The devices deliver high-resolution light-intensity conversion to frequency and programmable color and full-scale output frequency. The converters combine configurable silicon photodiodes and a current-to-frequency converter on a single CMOS IC.

Image of ams TCS3200 and TCS3210 color light-to-frequency converters

Figure 1: TCS3200 and TCS3210 programmable color light-to-frequency converters that combine configurable silicon photodiodes and a current-to-frequency.

In the TCS3200, the light-to-frequency converter reads an 8 Å~ 8 array of photodiodes. Sixteen photodiodes have blue filters, sixteen photodiodes have green filters, sixteen photodiodes have red filters, and sixteen photodiodes are clear with no filters. In comparison, with the TCS3210, the light-to-frequency converter reads a 4 Å~ 6 array of photodiodes. Six photodiodes have blue filters, six photodiodes have green filters, six photodiodes have red filters, and six photodiodes are clear with no filters.

The four colors of photodiodes are interdigitated to minimize the effect of nonuniformity of incident irradiance. All photodiodes of the same color are connected in parallel.

The very low failure rate of the ams AS5162 12-bit magnetic angle position sensor makes it attractive for use in automotive applications that need to comply with ISO26262 functional safety standards. It provides accurate angular measurement over a full turn of 360° and the ability to program a subrange.

The system-on-chip combines integrated Hall elements, an analog front-end, digital signal processing and automotive protection features in a single device. Measuring the angle involves only a simple two-pole magnet rotating over the center of the chip with the magnet placed above or below the IC.

The sensor operates at a supply voltage of 5 V and the supply and output pins are protected against overvoltage up to +20 V. It can be used in harsh environments due to contactless position sensing. The robust system is tolerant to magnet misalignment, air gap variations, temperature variations and external magnetic fields. It delivers high inherent accuracy and high driving capability for resistive and capacitive loads.

The position sensor provides accurate position data for such automotive applications as throttle and valve position sensing, gearbox position sensors, tumble flap, chassis height level, pedal position sensing and contactless potentiometers.

Also used for automotive applications is the ams AS5163 (Figure 2), a 12-bit automotive angle position sensor operating at a supply voltage of 5 V. Its supply and output pins are protected against overvoltage up to +27 V and supply pins are protected against reverse polarity up to -18 V.

The AS5163 is ideal for such automotive applications as throttle and valve position sensing, gearbox position sensing, headlight position control, torque sensing, pedal position sensing and noncontact potentiometers.

Image of ams AS5163 12-bit automotive angle position sensor


Figure 2: Typical arrangement of the sensor and magnet in the AS5163 12-bit automotive angle position sensor.

In comparison, the AS5043 is a contactless magnetic angle encoder for accurate measurement up to 360° in harsh environments in industrial, automotive, and robotics applications.

This solution provides a digital 10-bit and programmable analog output directly proportional to the angle of a magnet, rotating over the chip. The analog output can be configured in many ways such as user-programmable angular range, adjustable output voltage range, and voltage or current output. An internal voltage regulator allows operation of the 3.3 or 5.0 V supplies. Calibration is not required.

Specialized sensors are also offered by ams. For instance, the AS3935 programmable lightning sensor IC (Figure 3) detects the presence and approach of potentially hazardous lightning.

Block diagram of the ams AS3935 programmable lightning sensor IC


Figure 3: Block diagram of the AS3935 programmable lightning sensor IC, which detects the presence or approach of hazardous lightning.

AS3935 can detect intracloud activity and cloud-to-ground ashes, frequently enabling approaching storm risk evaluation. The AS3935 is said to be able to detect lightning activity from up to 40 km away. This information allows the user to set warning levels appropriate for their specific application.

The IC allows for the part to work indoors and outdoors by changing the gain setting in a register. Portable devices such as GPS, watches, cell phones, and other handheld devices can monitor the environment to warn of potential lightning strikes while weather stations, clocks, and pool equipment can warn of approaching lightning strikes in a given area.

The AS3935 “Franklin Lightning Sensor” IC provides distance estimation to the head of the storm and it can also identify and reject interference signals from common manmade sources, including fluorescent lighting, motors, microwave ovens, and switches. The IC has a power-down mode as well as a listening and active mode so it can be used in low-power portable devices.

As we have noted, ams AG delivers many sensor types and capabilities with a focus on reliability, precision, accuracy and power consumption. Its sensors provide real-world solutions to the challenges faced by designers across hazardous, harsh and demanding applications.

For more information about the sensors mentioned in this article, use the links provided to access product information pages on the Digi-Key website.

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