Design and implementation of low power interface electronics for vibration-based electromagnetic energy harvesters

Rahimi, Arian
For many years batteries have been used as the main power sources for portable electronic devices. However, the rate of scaling in integrated circuits and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) has been much higher than that of the batteries technology. Therefore, a need to replace these temporary energy reservoirs with small sized continuously charged energy supply units has emerged. These units, named as energy harvesters, use several types of ambient energy sources such as heat, light, and vibration to provide energy to intelligent systems such as sensor nodes. Among the available types, vibration based electromagnetic (EM) energy harvesters are particularly interesting because of their simple structure and suitability for operation at low frequency values (< 10 Hz), where most vibrations exits. However, since the generated EM power and voltage is relatively low at low frequencies, high performance interface electronics is required for efficiently transferring the generated power from the harvester to the load to be supplied. The aim of this study is to design low power and efficient interface electronics to convert the low voltage and low power generated signals of the EM energy harvesters to DC to be usable by a real application. The most critical part of such interface electronics is the AC/DC converter, since all the other blocks such as DC/DC converters, power managements units, etc. rely on the rectified voltage generated by this block. Due to this, several state-of-the-art rectifier structures suitable for energy harvesting applications have been studied. Most of the previously proposed rectifiers have low conversion efficiency due to the high voltage drop across the utilized diodes. In this study, two rectifier structures are proposed: one is a new passive rectifier using the Boot Strapping technique for reducing the diode turn-on voltage values; the other structure is a comparator-based ultra low power active rectifier. The proposed structures and some of the previously reported designs have been implemented in X-FAB 0.35 µm standard CMOS process. The autonomous energy harvesting systems are then realized by integrating the developed ASICs and the previously proposed EM energy harvester modules developed in our research group, and these systems have been characterized under different electromechanical excitation conditions. In this thesis, five different systems utilizing different circuits and energy harvesting modules have been presented. Among these, the system utilizing the novel Boot Strap Rectifier is implemented within a volume of 21 cm3, and delivers 1.6 V, 80 µA (128 µW) DC power to a load at a vibration frequency of only 2 Hz and 72 mg peak acceleration. The maximum overall power density of the system operating at 2 Hz is 6.1 µW/cm3, which is the highest reported value in the literature at this operation frequency. Also, the operation of a commercially available temperature sensor using the provided power of the energy harvester has been shown. Another system utilizing the comparator-based active rectifier implemented with a volume of 16 cm3, has a dual rail output and is able to drive a 1.46 V, 37 µA load with a maximum power density of 6.03 µW/cm3, operating at 8 Hz. Furthermore, a signal conditioning system for EM energy harvesting has also been designed and simulated in TSMC 90 nm CMOS process. The proposed ASIC includes a highly efficient AC-DC converter as well as a power processing unit which steps up and regulates the converted DC voltages using an on-chip DC/DC converter and a sub-threshold voltage regulator with an ultra low power management unit. The total power consumption on the totally passive IC is less than 5 µW, which makes it suitable for next generation MEMS-based EM energy harvesters. In the frame of this study, high efficiency CMOS rectifier ICs have been designed and tested together with several vibration based EM energy harvester modules. The results show that the best efficiency and power density values have been achieved with the proposed energy harvesting systems, within the low frequency range, to the best of our knowledge. It is also shown that further improvement of the results is possible with the utilization of a more advanced CMOS technology.
Citation Formats
A. Rahimi, “Design and implementation of low power interface electronics for vibration-based electromagnetic energy harvesters,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2011.