Range finding in passive wireless sensor networks using power-optimized waveforms

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Trotter, Matthew
Durgin, Gregory D.
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Passive wireless sensor networks (WSNs) are quickly becoming popular for many applications such as article tracking, position location, temperature sensing, and passive data storage. Passive tags and sensors are unique in that they collect their electrical energy by harvesting it from the ambient environment. Tags with charge pumps collect their energy from the signal they receive from the transmitting source. The efficiency of converting the received signal to DC power is greatly enhanced using a power-optimized waveform (POW). Measurements in the first part of this dissertation show that a POW can provide efficiency gains of up to 12 dB compared to a sine-wave input. Tracking the real-time location of these passive tags is a specialized feature used in some applications such as animal tracking. A passive WSN that uses POWs for the improvement of energy-harvesting may also estimate the range to a tag by measuring the time delay of propagation from the transmitter to the tag and back to the transmitter. The maximum-likelihood (ML) estimator is used for estimating this time delay, which simplifies to taking the cross-correlation of the received signal with the transmitted signal. This research characterizes key aspects of performing range estimations in passive WSNs using POWs. The shape of the POW has a directly-measurable effect on ranging performance. Measurements and simulations show that the RMS bandwidth of the waveform has an inversely proportional relationship to the uncertainty of a range measurement. The clutter of an environment greatly affects the uncertainty and bias exhibited by a range estimator. Random frequency-selective environments with heavy clutter are shown to produce estimation uncertainties more than 20 dB higher than the theoretical lower bound. Estimation in random frequency-flat environments is well-behaved and fits the theory quite nicely. Nonlinear circuits such as the charge pump distort the POW during reflection, which biases the range estimations. This research derives an empirical model for predicting the estimation bias for Dickson charge pumps and verifies it with simulations and measurements.
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