A research team at American University of Sharjah (AUS) has made an important breakthrough in energy harvesting technology that can benefit many sectors, from bio-medicine to construction.
The device works by harnessing electromagnetic radiation from different sources and then reusing it to energize low-power circuits.
Potential uses of the technology include being placed in a medical chip that measures blood sugar levels in diabetes patients; powering wireless sensors on bridges, roads and buildings to monitor structural safety factors; or improving the battery life of mobile phones.
Team members include Dr. Lutfi Albasha, Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering; Dr. Nasser Qaddoumi, Professor and Interim Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering; a full-time research associate and six undergraduate students including three UAE nationals.
“One of the main obstacles present when it came to energy harvesting technology was low efficiency. Despite many innovations in the field, one common problem, in most cases, was that the harvester itself utilized most of the collected energy,” Dr. Albasha commented.
Typically, harvesters would provide 5 percent efficiency. However, the AUS team was able to minimize its harvester’s energy consumption and to raise efficiency to more than 80 percent. Launched in 2011, the project is set to have its final testing soon.
Sponsored by Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) and Mubadala Technologies Company, the AUS team taped-out a chip using Global Foundries 65 nanometer advanced analog CMOS process. The chip comprises dedicated harvester circuits with very high conversion efficiencies.
In addition, the team was also equally successful in designing a novel wide-band antenna for the same system. “The antenna, reported to be the smallest and best-in-class, is very small and enjoys a wide frequency bandwidth. Tests have shown that this flat antenna can pick up signals from mobile phones, TV signals and even Wi-Fi and toll systems at 5GHz,” said Dr. Qaddoumi.