Catalyst Semi Earns Circuit Patent

A smaller player in the semiconductor arena Monday secured a key patent for embedded memory chips.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Catalyst Semiconductor said it has been awarded a U.S. patent (number 6,518,737) for its low dropout (LDO) linear voltage regulator design. The new circuit technique is core to the company’s programmable EEPROM technology and mixed-signal design into system level integrated circuits (ICs).

“We believe exploiting this capability will allow us to make key contributions to our existing mobile communication, automotive and consumer electronic customer base,” Catalyst Vice President of Marketing Barry Wiley said in a statement.”

Specifically, the patent covers a LDO linear regulator with non-Miller frequency compensation. The company said the newly patented technique grabs the best results by using wideband, low-power operational transconductance amplifiers. Previously, memory needed an extremely specified equivalent series resistance for the external capacitor. Catalyst says now the patented solution imposes no lower limit and very nearly resembles the response of a single-pole system.

Company scientists Cornel Stanescu of Bucharest, Romania, and Radu Iacob of Sunnyvale were honored with the patent.

Catalyst’s focus has been developing and marketing programmable products used in telecommunications, networking systems, computation, automotive, industrial and consumer markets. The company designs and markets a broad range of programmable products including Flash Memories, Parallel and Serial EEPROMs with I2C, SPI and Microwire interfaces, NVRAMs, Digitally Programmable Potentiometers, Microcontroller Supervisory circuits and other programmable Mixed Signal products. Typical applications for the Company’s products include optical networks, modems, wireless LANs, network cards, PC BIOS, DIMM modules, cellular telephones, digital satellite box receivers, set-top boxes and Internet routers.

In some respects, analysts say the memory sector has been over comoditized and susceptible to price wars and drastic product cycles. But recent forecasts by the Silicon Industry Association suggest the memory market is expected to remain a high-flyer in the sales department starting next year.

The MOS Memory market, which includes DRAMs, Flash, SRAMs, and EPROMs, is expected to continue in its historical volatile patterns. But the trade group says overall it is expecting 16.8 percent growth for 2004.

And with much of the purchases coming from non-PC makers like mobile devices, handsets and automobile manufacturers, Catalyst may be sitting in the catbird seat.

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