Design of low-power and energy-efficient analog, digital, RF, and power management integrated circuits for biomedical electronics, ubiquitous sensing, and short-range wireless applications.
Advances in sensor technologies are creating a paradigm shift in the way humans interact with their environments. For example, the Nintendo Wii-mote and Apple iPhone have revolutionized gaming and mobile device interfaces through ingenious use of accelerometer and capacitive touch sensors. As such sensing devices become smaller and more integrated with computational engines, radical new applications in areas such as personal biomedicine and ubiquitous computing can emerge. For instance, it may be possible to one day wear a full Body-Sensing Network that monitors respiration, heart rate, blood sugar levels, sleep patterns, and many other physiologic data using unobtrusive and minimally-invasive electronics. Such sensors could autonomously communicate with ubiquitous wireless networks embedded in building walls, vehicles, and sidewalks, for eventual transmission to the internet or private computational facilities. The sensed information can then be processed using data mining and machine learning algorithms to diagnose, monitor, and treat health-related conditions for humans, buildings, or industrial facilities.
However, many envisioned sensing systems are not yet deployable in practice ultimately due to physical volume restrictions, which limit the amount of energy storage (i.e., batteries) a sensing node can have. Since energy storage elements such as batteries and capacitors are not experiencing nearly the same rate of scaling as integrated circuits, anatomic- and/or environmental-miniaturization of electronic systems require: 1) increased energy efficiency of constituent system components, and/or 2) additional power input from locally operating energy scavengers.
To this end, our research has focused on improving efficiencies of integrated circuit sub-blocks and energy harvesters, always with a thoughtful eye to system-level trade-offs. For example, we have developed: new radio architectures that consume far less power than prior-art while enabling high spectral density communication schemes; fully-integrated switched-capacitor DC-DC converter topologies that enable many voltage conversion ratios and meet or exceed the performance of state-of-the-art inductive and capacitor converters (including both the latest research papers and commercially-available parts); novel wireless neural interfacing microsystems capable of recording from and stimulating wide swaths of cortex in a fully modular fashion for treatment of Epilepsy, Alzeimer’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other neurodegenerative diseases; and wearable chemical sensors and biofuel cells capable of monitoring parameters such as glucose and lactate in a continuous manner in sweat and saliva, while also offering the ability to self-power wireless sensing systems. These examples are but a small portion of the many exciting projects and research directions currently under way in the Energy-Efficient Microsystem Lab. For more information, please contact Prof. Mercier.
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