1 Oct 2002 update:
The jury is still out, but it MAY be possible to use embedded Linux in some cases for low power designs. Currently looking at uClinux on Dragonball VZ processors and "full" Linux on StrongArm....
Watch this space!
I develop and maintain low-power instrumentation here at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, particularly meteorological instruments (sorry, no specific web page - look at UOP Home Page for some general info), as well as an atmospheric dust (trace metals, etc.) collection system, a newer aerosols collector with XRF for near realtime analysis of trace elements, (see SEA-AER group web pages. I also work on some underwater instrumentation and sampling systems, including currently a redesign of the electronic hardware of the VMCM current meter for retrofit into the ~100 existing instruments (no web page here either :-( Most of my work is supported by grants from National Science Foundation (NSF) and, to a lesser extent, Office of Naval Research (ONR). I do both the hardware and software engineering for these instruments, and need very low power microcontrollers to do the jobs. No, a couple of watts is NOT low power - I mean less than 25 milliwatts idling and hopefully no more than 100-150 milliwatts operating. And much less than either of these numbers if at all possible!! The following processors have been used in most of my work:
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