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[SOLVED][UPDATE]:

The problem was with fuse bits. Somehow the fuses were being incorrectly written as 0xFE rather than 0xFD. FE corresponds to 1.8V and thus arduino board was working down to 1.8V. I reinstalled Arduino and started everything from scratch and with the Show Info code suggested by bigjosh, I was able to verify the fuse bits. I set the BOD level to 2.7V and now it's working as expected. Micro-controller resuming all operations once sufficient voltage is available.

Another update: I was seeing extended fuse settings for 1.8V because of file write permissions on C:\ in windows. Apparently the boards file was read only and windows raise no errors when I hit Ctrl+S. It led me into thinking that boards file was being updated while it was still stuck at default 1.8V BOD level. Second time, I chose to install on D:\ and everything is working perfectly.


I am trying to figure out how to use BOD to make my arduino project more robust but it appears to be yet another trouble. My system runs on 3.3V so I chose to set the BOD level at 2.7V (Extended fuses = 0x05).

Just as a bench test, I uploaded a serial print code which print "Started" when the micro-controller first starts and then "Working" after every half seconds.

Experiment was to power up the atmega using a bench top power supply and monitor the serial text on a PC. I was expecting something weird to happen once voltage goes below 2.7V. Nothing happened until 2.2V. Below 2.2V, multiple scenarios were there:

(Experimental setup: I didn't use arduino board. I built it on a separate breadboard and voltage was directly being fed by using bench top power supply. There were filter caps - 300 uF 16V close to IC pins. Serial was connected to PC directly without optical isolation. Common GND was made as well.)

Case 1: Micro-controller resetted a few times and kept working normally at 2.1V or so. On further reducing, it stopped printing. On raising the voltage, it never resumed to a normal working state. External reset brought it to normal state.

Case 2: It kept on printing some random stuff on serial until I further lowered the voltage, at which point it stopped printing. It didn't resume printing even after voltage was brought up to normal levels. External reset brought it to normal state.

Case 3: It resetted a few times and kept on printing "Wmrkmng". At that point, I started to raise the voltage to normal levels (3.3V) but it still kept on printing wrong text. External reset brought it to normal state.

My expectation was that when brown out is detected, the microcontroller would shut down (all GPIOs LOW and UART not printing anything - similar to powered off microcontroller) and as soon as voltage becomes normal, it'd act as if it has been turned ON from an OFF state. However the results are totally different. As such, if I use it in a product and for some reason, brownout occurs, the only convenient way to get it into a working condition is to power it OFF and back ON so that it receives Power-On-Reset signal. Definitely such a procedure won't be acceptable in many cases (including mine). As such what should I do to prevent such a lock up state? I am not sure even watch-dog will be of much help (consider case 3 - Most of the code was working. What if WDT sees no issue and lets the micro-controller run the way it is running).

(Edit: WDT failed in a few cases as expected)

I couldn't find much in Atmel datasheet but I came across a stackexchange question here which describes a similar issue for PIC family.

(Edit 2: While I waited for any answers to this question, I performed some other tests which didn't involve any external connection at all. I removed serial and uploaded a simple code to blink an LED at 1 Hz when a pin was HIGH and at 5 Hz when the pin went LOW. Even this code didn't work out. The results in this case can be compared to case 1,2 and 3. I tested WDT as well. No benefit. One strange thing that I noticed was that even though I was changing the bootloader config to set different BOD levels - 1.8V, 2.7V and 4.5V, the code used to mess up at around 2.2V in all cases). Here is the arduino definition:

uno.name=Arduino Uno

uno.vid.0=0x2341
uno.pid.0=0x0043
uno.vid.1=0x2341
uno.pid.1=0x0001
uno.vid.2=0x2A03
uno.pid.2=0x0043

uno.vid.0x2A03.warning=Uncertified

uno.upload.tool=avrdude
uno.upload.protocol=arduino
uno.upload.maximum_size=32256
uno.upload.maximum_data_size=2048
uno.upload.speed=115200

uno.bootloader.tool=avrdude
uno.bootloader.low_fuses=0xFF
uno.bootloader.high_fuses=0xDE
uno.bootloader.extended_fuses=0x05
uno.bootloader.unlock_bits=0x3F
uno.bootloader.lock_bits=0x0F
uno.bootloader.file=optiboot/optiboot_atmega328.hex

uno.build.mcu=atmega328p
uno.build.f_cpu=16000000L
uno.build.board=AVR_UNO
uno.build.core=arduino
uno.build.variant=standard

I changed extended fuse bits to 0x04, 0x05 and 0x06 to test the three BOD levels.

Basic LED blink code used to test:

int ledPin = 17;
int inputPin = 2;


void setup() {
  // put your setup code here, to run once:
//  Serial.begin(115200);
//  Serial.println("BOOT");
  pinMode(ledPin,OUTPUT);
  pinMode(inputPin,INPUT);
}

void loop() {
  // put your main code here, to run repeatedly:
//  delay(500);
//  Serial.println("XXXXXXXXXX");

  if (digitalRead(inputPin)==1)
  toggle(17,1000);
  else if (digitalRead(inputPin)==0)
  toggle(17,200);
}

void toggle(int pin_number, long int delay_time)
{
  digitalWrite(pin_number, HIGH);
  delay(delay_time);
  digitalWrite(pin_number, LOW);
  delay(delay_time);
}
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you using an actual Arduino board? Which one? These boards usually have a voltage regulator. Are you powering the chip though that regulator or directly to Vcc pin? \$\endgroup\$ – bigjosh Apr 19 '16 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Code? Schematic (which pin(s) connected to power/LED)? \$\endgroup\$ – bigjosh Apr 19 '16 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ How are you burning the fuses on the target chip? Using avrdude directly? Burning the bootloader in the Arduino IDE? Maybe try running a little test program that checks the fuses at runtime to verify the assumption that the fuses are getting set at all? \$\endgroup\$ – bigjosh Apr 19 '16 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ That seems a great idea because I am a little doubtful on that part whether fuses are being working as expected. Ideally at BOD = 4.5V, I shouldn't have been able to go as low as 2.2V. Will that code sample work in arduino environment. I am uploading bootloader using another arduino Uno programmed as Arduino ISP. \$\endgroup\$ – Whiskeyjack Apr 19 '16 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ RE:Will that code sample work in arduino environment This ShowInfo Arduino sketch should print the current fuse bits. \$\endgroup\$ – bigjosh Apr 19 '16 at 19:47
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The brown out detector will put the chip into reset mode if the voltage on the Vcc pin drops below the threshold. When in reset, all GPIO pins go into high impedance mode and no code executes. When the supply voltage again rises back above the threshhold for a minimum period of time, the chip will come out of reset and start executing code at the reset vector, similar to a normal start up.

Keep in mind that many Arduino boards have extra power circuitry like a voltage regulator. This means that the voltage that you supply to the Arduino board might not be the voltage the actual chip sees on its Vcc pin. You can use a volt meter to check the actual voltage seen on that pin so see if it matches what you expect.

Also keep in mind that AVR chips have clamping diodes on their inputs, so if a GPIO pin is connected to a higher voltage than the Vcc pin, then the chip can continued to be powered from the input pin. I ran into a very interesting bug due to this...

https://wp.josh.com/2014/03/03/the-mystery-of-the-zombie-ram/

How are you making your serial connection to the chip? Is it possible that power could be coming in though that connection?

Just to keep things simple while figuring this out, you might want to try pulling the chip out of the Arduino and putting it alone on a bread board so you can control the power directly. You might also want to get rid of the serial connection and instead use a blinking LED to indicate if the program is running or stopped.

Finally, I'd verify the assumption that the fuses are getting set as expected during your programming process. You could either use avrdude to read the fuses back from the programmed chip to see if they are what you want, try reading the fuses at runtime via software, or just try changing the clock speed via fuses, programming the chip up with your blinking code, and then verifying that the blink rate has changed to be consistent with the new fuse settings.

Once you get the expected BOD working as expected, you can start adding complexity back in to find the problem.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for serial phantom power - this causes all sorts of weird bugs. \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Apr 19 '16 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks bigjosh for replying. I have described the experimental setup in the question now. Chip was on a separate breadboard. No regulators were being used. Voltage measurements were being made on IC pins. Serial might have been a trouble so I tested the setup by blinking an LED. My micro controller didn't recover in this case as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Whiskeyjack Apr 19 '16 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ BOD definitely works, so there is something idiosyncratic to your setup that is causing the issue. With enough info, I can recreate your setup and see if I also recreate the issue. \$\endgroup\$ – bigjosh Apr 19 '16 at 19:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @bigjosh - Thanks a lot man. With the code you suggested, I was able to check where I was going wrong. My fuse bits were corresponding to 1.8V even though I tried different levels. A fresh installation of arduino and re burning of bootloader followed by verification made the things simple. Have a nice day. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Whiskeyjack Apr 20 '16 at 6:05

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