Datasheet Directories

Application-Specific MCUs (2020)

Written by Jeff Child

Focused Feature Sets

Unlike microprocessors, microcontrollers (MCUs) tend to be used for specific applications. But even among MCUs, there’s a trend toward MCUs that are designed with features suited for very specific application segments, or even sub-segments.

  • Application-specific MCUs

  • Motion control/motor control MCUs

  • Wireless MCUs

  • Space MCUs

  • IoT security MCUs

While most MCUs are aimed a general market, a class of MCUs has emerged that provides tailored feature sets aimed at targeted application needs. These application-specific MCUs give embedded systems developers right-sized solutions with the feature sets, packaging or performance levels tailored to fit their system requirements.

Among MCUs, there’s distinct difference between general purpose MCUs and MCUs that are designed for very specific application segments or sub-segments. These application-specific MCUs usually have carefully selected on-chip IP cores and peripherals that meet the requirements unique to an application need.

To keep pace with the demands of embedded systems developers, over the past 12 months MCU vendors have continued to roll out these MCUs that address application needs in motor control, security, locking systems and even space. For their part, automotive MCUs are a particularly large and extremely active segment of application-specific MCUs. That said, those automotive MCUs are not addressed in this article. For a recent look at technology and product trends in automotive MCUs, check out our recent August Special Feature “Diverse IC Types Drive Automotive Innovations” (Circuit Cellar 361).

An example of an application-specific MCU is Microchip Technology’s SAM3X8ERT radiation-tolerant MCU (Figure 1). The device embeds the widely-deployed Arm Cortex-M3 core processor, delivering 100 DMIPS performance from the same ecosystem as Microchip’s industrial variant of this MCU.

The SAM3X8ERT is an radiation-tolerant MCU based on the Arm Cortex-M3 core processor. This space-qualified MCU features ceramic and hermetic packages, extended temperature range -40°C to 105°C and extended qualification flow equivalent to QML-V or QML-Q space grade.

This MCU provides up to 512KB of dual bank flash, 100KB of SRAM, ADC, DAC and dual CAN controller on top of Ethernet capability. This space-qualified MCU features ceramic and hermetic packages, extended temperature range -40°C to 105°C and extended qualification flow equivalent to QML-V or QML-Q space grade. Radiation performance for the SAM3X8ERT is specified as SEL LET > 62MeV.cm2/mg (at 105°C), and TID up to 30Krad (Si).


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Former Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief for both and its sister publication, Circuit Cellar magazine 6/2017—3/2022. In nearly three decades of covering the embedded electronics and computing industry, Jeff has also held senior editorial positions at EE Times, Computer Design, Electronic Design, Embedded Systems Development, and COTS Journal. His knowledge spans a broad range of electronics and computing topics, including CPUs, MCUs, memory, storage, graphics, power supplies, software development, and real-time OSes.

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Application-Specific MCUs (2020)

by Jeff Child time to read: 2 min