Self-powered integrated circuits

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Self-powered sensing refers to an energy scavenging paradigm where the operational power of a sensor is harvested directly from the signal being sensed. For example, a piezoelectric transducer could be used for sensing variations in mechanical strain and the energy in the strain variations could also be used for the computation and storage. As a result, the operation of the self-powered sensor can be asynchronous where events of interest can directly energize the computing and storage circuits. In this manner, the asynchronous sensor can continuously monitor for events of interest without experiencing any down-time, a feature that can’t be guaranteed with conventional synchronous energy scavenging approaches. Our approach to self-powered sensing is to investigate analog non-volatile storage techniques that operate at fundamental limits of energy scavenging and hence can directly be energized by a transducer like a piezoelectric element. Based on this principle we have reported different variants of self-powered chipsets that can be used for health and usage monitoring of mechanically active parts like concrete pavements, bridges, propellers, fuselage, biomechanical implants and machine parts. We are also investigating perennial computing devices that can operate by harvesting energy from thermal noise. Because the power levels of thermal noise are typically less than 1 attowatt (10-18 W), conventional electronic cannot even operate, let alone scavenge energy. We have successfully designed and demonstrated self-powered timers that operate only using ambient thermal-noise.