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What is RISC-V Microcontroller

Date: 05-10-2023 ClickCount: 400

RISC-V is an open-source instruction set architecture used to develop customized processors for applications ranging from embedded designs to supercomputers.


Unlike proprietary processor architectures, RISC-V is an open-source instruction set architecture (ISA) for developing customized processors for a wide range of end-use applications.Originally developed at the University of California, Berkeley, the RISC-V ISA is considered a fifth-generation processor built on the concept of a reduced instruction set computer (RISC). It has become very popular in recent years due to its openness and technical merits. The standard is currently managed by RISC-V International, an organization with more than 3,000 members, and it is reported that more than 10 billion chips containing RISC-V cores have been shipped by the end of 2022.Many implementations of RISC-V are available, including open source cores and commercial IP products.


Why is RISC-V so Popular?


  • Open source nature: RISC-V is an open source instruction set architecture (ISA), meaning that it is freely available to anyone, there are no license fees to use it, and there are no restrictions on its use. This openness encourages collaboration and innovation within the RISC-V community, resulting in a diverse ecosystem of RISC-V-based products and solutions.
  • Customizability: RISC-V is designed with modularity in mind. It allows designers to select and implement instructions and extensions that are relevant only to their particular application. This flexibility allows customization of the RISC-V processor to optimize performance, power efficiency and area for a variety of uses.
  • Adaptability: RISC-V is well suited for a wide range of computing devices, from small microcontrollers to high-performance processors. Its scalability makes it suitable for different applications, including embedded systems, IoT devices, edge computing, data centers, and many other areas.
  • Industry Support: Many well-known companies and organizations have adopted RISC-V and contributed to its growth and acceptance. Industry leaders such as Western Digital, NVIDIA, SiFive, etc. have adopted RISC-V for different purposes including processors, storage, and gas pedals.
  • Research and Education: RISC-V is widely used in academia and research. Its open nature encourages experimentation, exploration and innovation, making it a valuable tool for teaching computer architecture and conducting computer science research.
  • Licensing flexibility: Unlike some proprietary ISAs, RISC-V allows organizations to design and implement their own RISC-V cores without the need for costly licensing agreements. This lowers the barrier for small companies and startups to create custom processors.
  • Global Collaboration: RISC-V fosters a global community of developers, researchers and companies working together to improve the ISA, develop software and tools, and share knowledge. This collaborative approach has accelerated its development and adoption.
  • Security and trust: The open source nature of RISC-V makes it easier to verify and trust the integrity of the RISC-V processor, which is critical for security-conscious applications. There is greater hardware design transparency.
  • Long-term sustainability: RISC-V's open source foundation and commitment to long-term sustainability ensures that it will remain available and relevant for many years to come, providing confidence to organizations considering its use in their products.
  • Reduced costs: Not having to pay for licenses and leveraging open source software and tools can result in cost savings for organizations using RISC-V technology.


Overall, RISC-V's popularity stems from its openness, flexibility, adaptability, and collaborative community efforts. These factors make RISC-V a viable and attractive alternative to proprietary instruction set architectures for a variety of applications and industries.


What is RISC-V Microcontroller

A RISC-V microcontroller is a type of microcontroller that utilizes the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA). RISC-V stands for "Reduced Instruction Set Computer - V" and is an open-source ISA that has gained popularity for its flexibility and adaptability in various computing applications, including microcontrollers.

 RISC-V Microcontroller

Here are some key points about RISC-V microcontrollers:


  • Open-Source ISA: RISC-V is an open-source ISA, which means that anyone can access and implement it without needing to pay royalties or license fees. This openness has led to a growing ecosystem of RISC-V-based processors and microcontrollers.
  • Reduced Instruction Set: RISC-V follows the philosophy of a reduced instruction set computer (RISC) architecture, which emphasizes a simplified and streamlined set of instructions. This typically leads to better performance and energy efficiency.
  • Modularity: RISC-V is designed with modularity in mind, allowing designers to choose and implement only the instructions and extensions that are relevant to their specific application. This flexibility makes it well-suited for a wide range of devices, including microcontrollers.
  • Customization: RISC-V microcontrollers can be customized to meet the specific requirements of an application. This can involve adding custom instructions or extensions to the base ISA, tailoring the processor to optimize performance and power efficiency.
  • Growing Ecosystem: The RISC-V ecosystem has been expanding rapidly, with many organizations and companies contributing to its development. This has resulted in a variety of RISC-V microcontroller implementations and development tools.
  • Versatility: RISC-V microcontrollers can be found in various applications, including IoT devices, embedded systems, edge computing devices, and more. Their flexibility and openness make them attractive for both research and commercial use.
  • Community Support: The RISC-V community is active and collaborative, providing resources, documentation, and support to developers and designers interested in using RISC-V in their projects.


Good RISC-V Microcontroller Recommended


SiFive FE310: The SiFive FE310 is one of the early RISC-V microcontrollers and is based on the E31 RISC-V core. It was commonly used for educational and development purposes.


Microchip Technology:

PolarFire SoC: Microchip's PolarFire SoC combines a RISC-V CPU with FPGA fabric, offering a wide range of customization options.



GD32VF103: GigaDevice's GD32VF103 series features RISC-V cores and is compatible with the popular STM32 microcontroller family.


Western Digital:

SweRV Core EH1: Western Digital released its SweRV Core EH1 as an open-source RISC-V core, which can be integrated into custom microcontroller designs.


GreenWaves Technologies:

GAP8: GreenWaves Technologies' GAP8 is designed for low-power AI and IoT applications, featuring multiple RISC-V cores optimized for edge computing.


Andes Technology:

AndesCore N25F: Andes Technology offers RISC-V cores that can be used in various microcontroller applications. The N25F is an example of one of their cores.



Open-V: Open-V is an open-source RISC-V microcontroller project that provides a customizable and affordable RISC-V-based microcontroller platform.


Seeed Studio:

Seeed Studio's Sipeed MAIX series: These are RISC-V-based AI-focused microcontroller development boards designed for machine learning and computer vision tasks.


Nuclei System Technology:

Nuclei N100 and N200 series: Nuclei System Technology offers a range of RISC-V-based microcontroller cores suitable for IoT and embedded applications.



Shakti Processor Family: GreenSocs' Shakti processor family includes a range of RISC-V cores designed for various applications, including microcontrollers.


RISC-V Applications

The application options for RISC-V ISAs are endless:


Wearables, Industrial, IoT and Home Appliances.RISC-V processors are ideally suited to meet the power requirements of space-constrained and battery-powered designs.


Smartphones. RISC-V cores can be customized to handle the performance required to power a smartphone, or can be used as part of a larger SoC to handle tasks specific to the operation of the phone.


Automotive, high-performance computing (HPC) and data centers. RISC-V cores can be customized to handle complex computational tasks with custom ISAs, while RISC-V extensions can be developed to be simple, secure and flexible to achieve greater energy efficiency.


Aerospace and government. RISC-V provides high reliability and security for these purpose applications.


What is the Difference Between RISC-V and ARM Microcontrollers?





Openness and Licensing

Open-source ISA with no licensing fees

Historically licensed ISA and core designs


Highly modular, allows extensive customization

Limited customization in predefined configurations

Ecosystem and Market Share

Growing presence, smaller market share

Dominant position with a large market share

Development Tools

Growing ecosystem of tools, may not be as mature

Well-established and comprehensive toolchain

Variety of Cores and Implementations

Diverse implementations from various manufacturers

Wide range of cores and features with consistency

Community and Support

Strong and growing open-source community

Large and well-established ecosystem with commercial support


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Kristina Moyes is an experienced writer who has been working in the electronics industry for the past five years. With a deep passion for electronics and the industry as a whole, she has written numerous articles on a wide range of topics related to electronic products and their development. Kristina's knowledge and expertise in the field have earned her a reputation as a trusted and reliable source of information for readers interested in the latest advancements in electronics.

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