You are here: Home » PTI Stories » National » News
Business Standard

Smart microchip can power sensors for 'Internet of Things'

Topics
Technology Internet

Press Trust of India  |  Singapore 

Scientists have developed a novel microchip that can function under dim light using a very small solar cell, an advance that could power sensors to support Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things (IoT), while still in its infancy, is shaping the future of many industries and will also impact our daily lives in significant ways.

One of the key challenges of moving IoT devices from concept to reality is to have long-lasting operation under tightly constrained energy sources, thus demanding extreme power efficiency.

IoT devices - such as sensors - are often deployed on a massive scale and in places that are usually remote and difficult to service regularly, thus making their self-sufficiency essential.

Currently, batteries in IoT devices are much larger and up to three times more expensive than the single chip they power. Their size is determined by the sensor node lifetime, which directly affects how often they need to be changed.

This has an important bearing on maintenance cost and impact on the environment when batteries are disposed.

To extend the overall lifetime, the battery is usually recharged slowly by harvesting some limited power from the environment, such as using a solar cell.

However, existing IoT devices cannot operate without battery, and small batteries are fully discharged more frequently.

Hence, battery miniaturisation often results in highly discontinuous operation of IoT devices, as they stop functioning every time the battery runs out of energy.

To address this technology gap, scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) developed a microchip named BATLESS, that can continue to operate even when the battery runs out of energy.

BATLESS is designed with a novel power management technique that allows it to self-start and continue to function under dim light without any battery assistance, using a very small on-chip solar cell.

This research breakthrough substantially reduces the size of batteries required to power IoT sensor nodes, making them 10 times smaller and cheaper to produce.

"We have demonstrated that batteries used for IoT devices can be shrunk substantially, as they do not always need to be available to maintain continuous operation," said Massimo Alioto, leader of the NUS research team.

"Tackling this fundamental problem is a major advancement towards the ultimate vision of IoT sensor nodes without the use of batteries, and will pave the way for a world with a trillion IoT devices," said Alioto, associate professor at the NUS.

BATLESS is equipped with a new power management technique that enables operations to be self-started, while being powered directly by the tiny on-chip solar cell, with no battery assistance.

The team had demonstrated this at indoor light intensity, equivalent to the dim light available at twilight. This makes BATLESS indifferent to battery availability, addressing a previously unsolved challenge in battery-less chips.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Sun, May 06 2018. 16:45 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU