GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

MIT chip could power wireless sensors

Those ahead-of-the-curve researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have done it again. This time they are developing a chip that can harness power from all sources such as light, differences in ambient temperature and even vibrations.

Sure, this is not much energy for a small device to collect, but it is enough to keep a low-power device such as a remote sensor functioning without the need for batteries.

Although having chips that can harvest power is not a new thing, the existing chips only collect power from one type of source, or, at best, switch to the single type currently generating the most energy, even if the other sources are also generating power.

In their report, the MIT scientists describe how the problem was to construct a circuit that rapidly switches between these disparate energy types to generate one continuous source of power.

Many government agencies use sensors in their work --  from earthquake sensors installed by the U.S. Geological Survey to sensors monitoring the condition of infrastructure such as bridges, to bio-med sensors for patients in hospitals.

Right now, every single one of them requires batteries to ensure they keep functioning. If this new chip can actually be implemented, then there would be significant savings, not only in our operating budgets but also in landfill space.

And if Kevin Bacon had possessed this technology in “Tremors,” there is no telling what he could have powered.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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