Is there a known effect in microcontrollers for working a 'little' beyond the absolute maximum voltage as power supply?

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#1
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Yes, the question is a little too wide.

right now I'm using an ATmega128RFA1 microcontroller whose power supply is rated to be 3.6V max.

 

I did some test with some boards powering them through USB (5V) just to test if they whould burn, but they didn't.

After that I've been powering them with a LiPo battery (4.2V max) and they're working fine for now.

 

Should the chip be damaged for using it at 4.2V?

Is that too much of an overvoltage?

Is there any symptom that I should/could check?

 

Since these are for prototipes, I don't care if they burn, in fact I'd like to know how much voltage they can tolerate without damaging them.

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Will it work at 4.2? Likely.

 

Will it endure at 4.2? Not Likely.

 

If I made a hundred of them would they all work at 4.2? You're REALLY pushing your luck here.

The largest known prime number: 282589933-1

It's easy to stop breaking the 10th commandment! Break the 8th instead. 

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Torby wrote:

Will it work at 4.2? Likely.

 

Will it endure at 4.2? Not Likely.

 

If I made a hundred of them would they all work at 4.2? You're REALLY pushing your luck here.

The idea is just to prototype using 4.2V since it's what I have at hand, the definitive solution should work with 3.7V max battery.

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Why not just put a diode, or 2,  between your battery and the processor?

 

Greg

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AFIK,    stress testing of any device is normally done at 'higher values'.      Then some maths is applied to relate the results to the design values.

 

After all,   if a product is supposed to have a MTBF of 20 years,    you are going to be dead before 20 years is up.     And better designs, production have appeared.     So they will use high voltages, extreme temperatures,  ... That way,   they might get the statistical results within hours, days, months, ...      At least within a sensible time.

 

I have no idea or knowledge of the 'voltage' relationship.    But the electronics industry statisticians will know it intimately.     It is your job to ask Google.

 

I would guess that you will be able to expect several hours of use at 5V.

And if you do the maths on 3.7V vs 3.6V,   I guess you will get one or two years instead of 20 years life.

 

If you have changed your job before they fail,   you are golden!

 

David.

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It all depends on what you take the words "absolute" and "maximum" to mean.

The way I understand the word "maximum", the word "absolute" seems superfluous, so the very fact that the manufacturers have chosen to use the term "absolute maximum" suggests to me that you should take notice.

Four legs good, two legs bad, three legs stable.

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Remember that RF part of the RFA1 is a very delicate analog device. Digital parts will likely work at higher voltages, although they might cause permanent damage that will result in higher current consumption in the sleep modes.

 

So never do power consumption tests on devices exposed to high voltages or static shock. Those devices might appear to be working fine, but they are not.

NOTE: I no longer actively read this forum. Please ask your question on www.eevblog.com/forum if you want my answer.

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John_A_Brown wrote:
It all depends on what you take the words "absolute" and "maximum" to mean.

Go beyond the datasheet – Part 1: Dependencies and guardbands

by Gene Frantz, Chau Mai, Ivan Garcia (Texas Instruments)

9/21/2010

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1278301

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

Last Edited: Fri. Oct 10, 2014 - 06:24 PM
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tglaria wrote:
Should the chip be damaged for using it at 4.2V?

Is that too much of an overvoltage?

Depends on the voltage, temperature, and process variation.

Some ICs contain a voltage shunt to limit an over-voltage on the IC's power.

4.2V -

If the volume and weight limits aren't too low could consider 3.6V with lithium phosphate or 3.8V with two series connected nickel zinc.

Or, limit the cell's voltage to 4.0V or 4.1V and quadruple or double the cell's lifetime.

With a 1mm thick cell LiPo sure are appealing.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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Look at the various overclocking sites, and you'll see people have been pushing voltage specs for decades.

 

In my experience, absolute maximum ratings in datasheets are 30-50% below what it will take to damage the chips.  And as for any long-term damage, the only thing I know that higher voltage will cause is faster silicon doping migration, which is extremely slow anyway.

 

While moderate over-voltage is highly unlikely to damage a chip, it might not perform within spec.   For the voltage differences you're talking about, I'd take a bet on 100:1 odds that you're safe.

 

However I'd second the suggestion to charge your lithium cell to 4.0 instead of 4.2V.

http://www.powerstream.com/lithu...

 

I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious. - Albert Einstein

 

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gchapman wrote:

 

John_A_Brown wrote:

It all depends on what you take the words "absolute" and "maximum" to mean.

 

Go beyond the datasheet – Part 1: Dependencies and guardbands

by Gene Frantz, Chau Mai, Ivan Garcia (Texas Instruments)

9/21/2010

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1278301

While that is an interesting paper, it would be more relevant(in my opinion) if the OP was raising the voltage in an attempt to squeeze more performance out of the chip. That doesn't seem to be the case, they just don't want the hassle of a regulated supply.

Four legs good, two legs bad, three legs stable.

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dalpilot wrote:

Why not just put a diode, or 2,  between your battery and the processor?

 

Greg

Just space and consumption/lifetime constraints.

I can get more juice out of the battery if I connect it directly to the microcontroller.

david.prentice wrote:
AFIK,    stress testing of any device is normally done at 'higher values'.      Then some maths is applied to relate the results to the design values.

 

After all,   if a product is supposed to have a MTBF of 20 years,    you are going to be dead before 20 years is up.     And better designs, production have appeared.     So they will use high voltages, extreme temperatures,  ... That way,   they might get the statistical results within hours, days, months, ...      At least within a sensible time.

 

I have no idea or knowledge of the 'voltage' relationship.    But the electronics industry statisticians will know it intimately.     It is your job to ask Google.

 

I would guess that you will be able to expect several hours of use at 5V.

And if you do the maths on 3.7V vs 3.6V,   I guess you will get one or two years instead of 20 years life.

 

If you have changed your job before they fail,   you are golden!

 

David.

As far as I knew, most devices should work a bit over their rated values. 

3.7 over 3.6V isn't too much according to my 'thinking', but just want to be sure.

 

alexru wrote:

Remember that RF part of the RFA1 is a very delicate analog device. Digital parts will likely work at higher voltages, although they might cause permanent damage that will result in higher current consumption in the sleep modes.

 

So never do power consumption tests on devices exposed to high voltages or static shock. Those devices might appear to be working fine, but they are not.

That's the part I'm more concerned about, the analog part.

I'm trying to find what could happen when powering with overvoltage, but haven't found what tests were done.

 

gchapman wrote:

 

John_A_Brown wrote:

It all depends on what you take the words "absolute" and "maximum" to mean.

 

Go beyond the datasheet – Part 1: Dependencies and guardbands

by Gene Frantz, Chau Mai, Ivan Garcia (Texas Instruments)

9/21/2010

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1278301

That gives me hope.

 

ralphd wrote:

Look at the various overclocking sites, and you'll see people have been pushing voltage specs for decades.

 

In my experience, absolute maximum ratings in datasheets are 30-50% below what it will take to damage the chips.  And as for any long-term damage, the only thing I know that higher voltage will cause is faster silicon doping migration, which is extremely slow anyway.

 

While moderate over-voltage is highly unlikely to damage a chip, it might not perform within spec.   For the voltage differences you're talking about, I'd take a bet on 100:1 odds that you're safe.

 

However I'd second the suggestion to charge your lithium cell to 4.0 instead of 4.2V.

http://www.powerstream.com/lithuim-ion-charge-voltage.htm

 

The whole idea is to power the chips with 3.7V max (the battery datasheet says it's a 3.6V one, but surely it gets a bit more)

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ralphd wrote:
In my experience, absolute maximum ratings in datasheets are 30-50% below what it will take to damage the chips.

The Absolute Maximum ratings are those within which the thing is guaranteed not to get damaged.

 

That, clearly, does not mean that one step over them will cause damage - just that you have no guarantee.

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tglaria wrote:
The idea is just to prototype using 4.2V since it's what I have at hand, the definitive solution should work with 3.7V max battery.

 

Not a believer in the, "Fly What You Test; Test What You Fly" maxim - then?

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Torby wrote:
If I made a hundred of them would they all work at 4.2? You're REALLY pushing your luck here.

And would they all continue to work on a hot summer's day? or a cold winter's night? etc, etc,...?

 

This is the difference between a hobbyist one-off and a professional, fully-specified design fit for long-term production & deployment at scale...

 

 

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awneil wrote:

 

ralphd wrote:

In my experience, absolute maximum ratings in datasheets are 30-50% below what it will take to damage the chips.

 

The Absolute Maximum ratings are those within which the thing is guaranteed not to get damaged.

 

That, clearly, does not mean that one step over them will cause damage - just that you have no guarantee.

I guess this confirms my suspitions then.

I'll just have to test them once I get to a 'beta' prototype to test if I can afford the smaller MTBF because of using a 3.7V power supply instead of a 3.3V regulated one.

 

awneil wrote:

 

tglaria wrote:

The idea is just to prototype using 4.2V since it's what I have at hand, the definitive solution should work with 3.7V max battery.

Not a believer in the, "Fly What You Test; Test What You Fly" maxim - then?

I'm not sure if I understood this maxim.

 

awneil wrote:
Torby wrote:

If I made a hundred of them would they all work at 4.2? You're REALLY pushing your luck here.

And would they all continue to work on a hot summer's day? or a cold winter's night? etc, etc,...?

 

This is the difference between a hobbyist one-off and a professional, fully-specified design fit for long-term production & deployment at scale...

And that's when testing starts to get complicated.