Fast-waking and low-voltage thermoelectric and photovoltaic CMOS chargers for energy-harvesting wireless microsensors

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Blanco, Andres Arturo
Rincón-Mora, Gabriel A.
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The small size of wireless microsystems allows them to be deployed within larger systems to sense and monitor various indicators throughout many applications. However, their small size restricts the amount of energy that can be stored in the system. Current microscale battery technologies do not store enough energy to power the microsystems for more than a few months without recharging. Harvesting ambient energy to replenish the on-board battery extend the lifetime of the microsystem. Although light and thermal energy are more practical in some applications than other forms of ambient energy, they nevertheless suffer from long energy droughts. Additionally, due to the very limited space available in the microsystem, the system cannot store enough energy to continue operation throughout these energy droughts. Therefore, the microsystem must reliably wake from these energy droughts, even if the on-board battery has been depleted. The challenge here is waking a microsystem directly from an ambient source transducer whose voltage and power levels are limited due to their small size. Starter circuits must be used to ensure the system wakes regardless of the state of charge of the energy storage device. The purpose of the presented research is to develop, design, simulate, fabricate, test and evaluate CMOS integrated circuits that can reliably wake from no energy conditions and quickly recharge a depleted battery. Since the battery is depleted during startup, the system must use the low voltage produced by the energy harvesting transducer to transfer energy. The presented system has the fastest normalized wake time while reusing the inductor already present in the battery charger for startup, therefore, minimizing the overall footprint of the system.
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