Staying alive in variable, intermittent, low-power environments (SAVVIE)

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Electrical, Electronic & Computer Eng


Today's low-power electronic systems are designed to handle a high variability in the power demand, for example during transmissions from miniature wireless sensors. However these systems cannot cope with a highly variable power supply. If they are powered by an ambient energy harvester in an environment where the available power is low and sporadic, the system dies once the energy storage becomes depleted or damaged, with start-up being impossible if the power is not increased to a higher steady level. With an increasing number of potential applications of microelectronic systems calling for remote, embedded and miniaturized solutions, sporadic and low power supply and unpredictable energy storage needs to be addressed.

This project researches how to design robust and reliable electronics for situations where there is a variable, unreliable source of energy. A number of situations, or states, have been defined, according to the level of depletion of on-board energy storage, and to how variable the power supply is. In the most challenging states, for example where the input power is sporadic and spread over a wide range from nW to mW, modern electronics fails. We call this the "survival zone" and are investigating a combination of techniques from the areas of power electronics and asynchronous microelectronics design to allow devices to operate in this zone. Techniques include control circuits that are able to ride through variable voltages, the detection of states, and reconfigurable hardware resources and control algorithms to suit sporadic and sub-microwatt input power. The chief aim of this project is to produce survival zone design methods for the microelectronics design community.
Description This project has produced many solutions at the circuit design level, for systems that operate under limited power, including energy harvesting systems and systems with constrained battery lives.
There has been better understanding in the way how memristors can be used as non-volatile storage in battery-less computing systems.
Exploitation Route These findings can help building autonomous electronics and sensors
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Environment

Description This is a self powered voltage sensor, which can be used in energy harvesting systems and power constrained systems. 
IP Reference US9121871 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2015
Licensed No
Impact It has led to new types of sensing in power constrained systems. This patent is likely to be included in portfolio of a planned spinout in the field of pervasive and energy-autonomous AI hardware.
Description Blog on Energetic Computing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This blog is intended to communicate my views on a number of topics around Energy-Modulated Computing, such as Energy-driven computing, Real Power Computing, Electromagnetism, Causality, Asynchronous Circuits and Systems etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020