Posts Tagged ‘power harvesting’

Ambiq Micro Introduces Ultra-Low Power Apollo 2 Cortex-M4F MCU Consuming Less than 10 μA/MHz

December 18th, 2016 1 comment

Last year Ambiq Micro unveiled their Apollo Cortex-M4F MCU with Cortex M0+ energy efficiency thanks to operation in sub-threshold voltage (< 0.5 V), and the MCU is said found in Matrix Powerwatch, a fitness tracker powered by body heat that you never need to charge. The company has recently announced a new version of the micro-controller with Apollo 2 MCU with better maximum performance thanks to a higher maximum clock speed (48 MHz vs 24 MHz), and higher efficiency (10 μA/MHz vs 30 μA/MHz @ 3.3V).


Apollo 2 MCU key features and specifications:

  • Ultra-low supply current
    • <10 μA/MHz executing from flash at 3.3 V
    • <10 μA/MHz executing from RAM at 3.3 V
  • ARM Cortex-M4 Processor up to 48 MHz with FPU, MMU, wake-up interrupt controller with 32 interrupts
  • Ultra-low power memory
    • Up to 1 MB of flash memory for code/data
    • Up to 256 KB of low leakage RAM for code/data
    • 16kB 1 or 2-way Associative Cache
  • Ultra-low power interface for off-chip sensors
    • 14 bit, 15-channel, up to 1.2 MS/s ADC
    • Voltage comparator
    • Temperature sensor with +/-2ºC accuracy
  • Serial peripherals – 6x I2C/SPI master,1x I2C/SPI slave,2x UART, PDM for mono and stereo audio microphone
  • Clock sources
    • 32.768 kHz XTAL oscillator
    • Low frequency RC oscillator – 1.024 kHz
    • High frequency RC oscillator – 48 MHz
    • RTC based on Ambiq’s AM08X5/18X5 families
  • Wide operating range – 1.8-3.6 V, –40 to 85°C
  • Package –  2.5 x 2.5 mm 49-pin CSP with 34 GPIO; 4.5 x 4.5 mm 64-pin BGA with 50 GPIO

The MCU promises weeks, months, and years of battery life thanks to Ambiq Micro’s patented Subthreshold Power Optimized Technology (SPOT) Platform. Apollo 2 will be suitable for battery operated devices, or even batteryless devices leveraging energy harvesting such as wireless sensors, activity and fitness trackers, consumer medical devices, smart watches, and smart home/IoT devices.

Documentation and devkits are available but you’d need to contact the company to learn more. Ambiq Micro’s Apollo 2 is currently sampling to some partners, and will be sampling more broadly in the coming months. A few more details may be found on Ambiq Micro Apollo 2’s product page.

Meet Body Heat Powered MATRIX PowerWatch, The Activity Tracker You Never Need to Charge (Crowdfunding)

November 15th, 2016 4 comments

There are currently several issues with wearables that makes it sub-optimal devices, from displays that can’t be always-on, to unreliable sensors, and in my experience pretty poor reliability, as I’ve managed to go through 4 fitness trackers / smartwatches in a year. Another issue is that contrary to typical watches lasting 10 years with a coin cell battery, most wearables require to be charge every few days, weeks, with the very best devices being chargers every few months. MATRIX PowerWatch promises to solve latter, as you will never need to ever charge it since it charges itself by harvesting energy using your body heat.

matrix-powerwatchThe company promotes it as a smartwatch, but it’s closer to an activity tracker, since you can’t keep the Bluetooth LE connection all the time in order to receive notifications to your smartphone. It’s basically used to show time, track your activity and sleep patterns, and you can synchronize the data with your iOS or Android phone when you need it. It does not have to be done often, as the watch can keep up to one year of data. The watch is water-resistant up to 50 meters, and controlled by two buttons (no touchscreen). One extra advantage of the heat body charging mechanism is that it will also allow the watch to accurately track the amount of calories burned, while all other wearables are just making informed guesses. If you don’t wear the watch, a backup battery takes care of power, the watch goes to sleep keeping track of time.

So how does it convert body heat into energy? The company explains:

Our thermoelectric technology converts heat to electric power. It is based on the Seebeck effect discovered in 1821. In the absence of an applied voltage gradient V, electric current, J, can still be generated if there is a temperature gradient, T: . A thermoelectric material must have a low thermal conductivity and high electrical conductivity to function efficiently. NASA has used this technology to power the Voyager spacecraft and Curiosity, the mars rover.

A thermoelectric module is composed of many tiny semiconductor “legs” that when added together create a large voltage.

Some obvious concerns about the technology is whether it will work as advertised in all conditions. It relies on temperature delta, so what happens when the ambient temperature is close to body temperature, would the watch just go into sleep mode in that case, relying on the backup battery? The comments are also interesting, where we learn the display is apparently a black & white LCD display, and not a low power e-Paper display, and some people are starting to ask features like a color display, GPS support, and BT notifications which may not be a realistic goal… But other aspects of the project also inspire more confidence, as they have allegedly tested 1,000 working prototypes, and Arrow Electronics is involved in the manufacturing of the project.

The watch was launched on Indiegogo yesterday, and the project has already surpassed its $100,000 crowdfunding campaign. If you’ll like to get involved you can still go with an super early bird pledge of $119 for the PowerWatch with a nylon strap. Other rewards are just for various  quantities up to 100. Shipping is free to the US, adds $15 to the rest of the world, and delivery is scheduled for July or September 2017 depending on the rewards.

Via Liliputing and CNET

ShiftWear Shoes Integrate a Flexible e-Paper Display, Energy Harvesting Capabilities (Crowdfunding)

December 1st, 2015 6 comments

ARM CTO, Mike Muller, showcase imprinted electronics, that is an integrated circuit printed on a plastic film, at ARM TechCon 2015, and several products are featured flexible displays, so in future flexible electronics could bring innovation applications from truly wearables electronics to traceable bank notes, and so on. A company has launched an Indiegogo campaign for a new product, that’s both cool and relatively useless, with ShiftWear sneakers that integrate a flexbile e-Paper display, a battery that recharges by harvesting energy from your steps, and some connectivity (likely Bluetooth LE) to update the display from your iOS, Android or  Windows device.

Smart_Shoes_DisplayThree models are available: L1, M1 and H1 referring to low height, medium height and high height of the part around the ankle (heel tab?). But all three have basically the same features:

  • Always-on HD color e-paper flexible display
  • Up to 30 days of battery life
  • Waterproof up to 5 meters
  • Machine washable
  • Kevlar fiber coated oles
  • Wireless charging
  • Walk to charge technology
Limited Edition

Limited Edition

You can display both static images and animation, but battery life will obviously be much better with static images. The shoes are using energy harvesting “walk-to-charge” technology, but it might not be enough to keep the battery charged all the time, so wireless charging is also an option. The Classic version of the shoes are only partially covered with the display. but there’s also a Limited Edition M1 with a display all around the shoe, and limited to 2,000 pieces. There will also be a community to exchange and potentially sell designs to upload to the shoes.

If you watch the video above, you may want to say “just take my money”, but it might be risky because 1. there’s no prototype, 2. launch is only planned for fall 2016, or about one year from now, 3. few technical details are provided, 4. some of the features like HD displays seem tied to a 1 million dollar stretch goal, walk-to-charge to 2 millions, etc.. With that in mind, you could pledge $150, $250, or $350 for respectively L1, M1 and H1 Classic, or splurge $1,000 for a M1 Limited edition. Shipping is not included and adds $25 to North America, and $50 to the rest of the world.

You might also find some extra information on ShiftWear website.

EnOcean EDK 350 Developer Kit For Energy Harvesting Wireless Solutions

November 19th, 2012 No comments

EnOcean unveiled the EDK 350 developer kit which includes energy harvesting and wireless (RF) modules, and demonstrated the platform at Electronica 2012 on Future Electronics and Farnell booth. The new kit can help OEMs design batteryless applications quickly in a cost-effective manner for building and industry automation, smart homes and machine-to-machine systems.

EnOcean EDK 350 Energy Harvesting Kit (Click to Enlarge)

EnOcean EDK 350 Developer Kit includes the following modules:

  • A universal programmer board (EOP 350)
  • TCM 320 (transceiver module)
  • STM 300 (universal wireless sensor module)
  • ECO 200 (mechanical energy converter)
  • PTM 330 (transmitter module for ECO 200)
  • PTM 210/PTM 215 (energy harvesting switch module, PTM 215 includes data encryption function)
  • STM 330 (energy harvesting temperature sensor module)
  • USB 300 (USB wireless gateway)

Wireless modules are normally available at frequencies of 315 MHz (for North America and countries following FCC specs) and 868 Mhz (for Europe and countries following R&TTE specs).

The EDK 350 developer kit can be extended with the EDK 352 thermo developer kit that includes an STM 312 energy harvesting wireless sensor module and the ultra low voltage ECT 310 DC/DC converter in conjunction with a peltier element to power EnOcean modules by differences in temperature.

Configuration and programming can be achieved with EnOcean DolphinStudio and the Dolphin API (application programming interface). In addition, the DolphinView PC software is provided for visualising and mapping the wireless protocol.

EnOcean had previously launched the ESK 300 starter kit (~ $145) which can be used for initial tests, and includes the USB 300 stick, PTM 200 self-powered push button switch, STM 330 self-powered temperature sensor, ECO 200 push button energy and PTM 330 push buttom radio module. If configuration, hardware or software development is required, this low cost kit can be upgraded to a developer kit by purchasing the new EPK 350 programmer kit which includes the universal programmer board, a transceiver module and the universal sensor module.

EnOcean EDK 350 developer kit will be able for OEMs from December 2012 at an undisclosed price. It will replace the EDK 300 developer kit which was sold for about $735.

You can find more information on EnOcean EDK 350, ESK 300 and EPK 350 pages.

$17.50 STMicroelectronics M24LR Discovery Kit For NFC/RFID Batteryless Applications

November 13th, 2012 No comments

STMicroelectronics has announced the M24LR Discovery Kit, a low cost development platform for  NFC or RFID applications with energy-harvesting capabilities. This devkit is aimed at accelerating the design and development of batterlyless applications such as phone and tablet accessories, computer peripherals, electronic shelf labels, home appliances, industrial automation, sensing and monitoring systems, and personal healthcare products.

M24LR-DISCOVERY Kit: M24LR Board + RF Transceiver Board (Click to Enlarge)

The M24LR Discovery Kit consists of two boards:

  • an RF transceiver board with a 13.56MHz multi-protocol RFID/NFC transceiver driven by an STM32 32-bit microcontroller
  • A battery-less board that includes ST’s dual-interface EEPROM memory IC, an ultra-low-power 8-bit microcontroller (STM8L) and a temperature sensor.

Here are the key features of the boards:

  • M24LR board
    • M24LR04E-RMN6T/2 Dual Interface EEPROM with I2C and ISO/IEC 15693 RF interfaces, 4 Kbits of EEPROM and password protection in SO8N package
    • STM8L152C6T6 8-bit microcontroller, with 8 Kbytes of Flash memory
    • STTS751-0WB3F, low-voltage digital temperature sensor
    • 20 x 40 mm inductive antenna etched on the PCB
    • Two function buttons (User and Reset)
    • SWIM connector for programming and debugging
    • I2C connectors
    • LCD (24 segments, 4 commons)
  • RF transceiver board
    • CR95HF-VMD5T 13.56 MHz multi-protocol contactless transceiver IC with SPI and UART serial access
    • STM32F103CB 32-bit microcontroller, with 128 Kbytes of Flash memory
    • 47 x 34 mm 13.56 MHz inductive antenna etched on PCB and associated circuitry
    • USB connector for communication with host PC (Windows 2000, XP, Vista or 7) and demonstration board powering

M24LR board gets its power by harvesting the radio waves emitted by the RF transceiver board or NFC phones or tablets supporting ISO/IEC 15693 standard for vicinity cards (Read distance up to 1-1.5m). STMicro has published an NfcV-reader Android app in order to allow Android mobile devices that support NFC to communicate with the M24LR board.

The company also provides data brief, user manual, schematics & gerber files for both boards, and firmware & software demos for M24LR board.

The development kit is sampling now, and is available for the recommended price of $17.50 via ST Micro distributors. You can find more information on STMicro M24LR Discovery Kit page.

199 Euros “Energy Harvesting Solution To Go” Kit with Energy Micro Cortex M3 Starter Kit

November 2nd, 2012 No comments

If you’re interesting in battery less ultra low power applications, Energy Micro, Linear Technology and Würth Elektronik have announced an energy harvesting development platform early last month. The “Energy Harvesting Solution To Go” Kit is composed of an Energy Micro Giant Gecko (Cortex M3) Starter Kit and an energy harvesting board that is capable of getting enough solar, thermal, piezoelectric or electromagnetic energy to power the MCU board.

Energy Harvesting Board

The power connector shown above connects directly to the Giant Gecko Starter Kit board to provide power. Although there are 4 energy harvesters on the board, only one power source can be selected at a time via jumpers. Several power sources can be selected by using diodes. The board The energy harvesting board offers two integrated energy sources:

  • A solar cell (32mm x 50mm)
  • A thermo-generator (40mm x 40mm).

And 2 other external energy sources can be added to the board via connectors.

Würth Elektronik provides a user’s manual,  schematics  (PDF) and design Files (Gerber data and bill of material) for  Linear Technology multi-source energy harvester board.

The Giant Gecko Starter Kit (EFM32GG-STK3700) used in this development platform comes with an ARM Cortex M3 @ 48MHz, (1024KB Flash + 128KB RAM on Chip), 32 MB NAND Flash, 1 USB port, 160-segment LCD display, 2 programmable buttons, a touch slider, an ambient light sensor and an inductive-capacitive metal sensor.

The energy harvesting board is said to be compatible with all other starter kits of the EFM32 family.

The video below shows an unboxing of the kit, how the MCU and energy harvesting boards are connected, and a demo of the included solar and thermal power sources.

The “Energy Harvesting Solution To Go” Kit is available for 199 Euros (inc. VAT and shipping to Germany) from Würth Elektronik website. For those who already have a EFM32 starter kit, the energy harvesting board does not appear to be sold separately.

Texas Instruments Announces Ultra-Low Power MSP430 “Wolverine” MCU Series

February 29th, 2012 No comments

TI Ultra-Low Power MCUs Texas Instruments announced a new series of its MSP430 MCUs codenamed “Wolverine” for its aggressive power-saving technology. The company claims this ultra-low-power MSP430 microcontroller platform offers at least 50 percent less power consumption than any other micro-controller in the industry with 360 nA RTC mode and less than 100 µA/MHz active power consumption.

Since typical battery powered applications spend as much as 99.9 percent of their time in standby mode, Wolverine MCUs power consumption of 360 nA in standby mode would more than double the battery life.

Here are the key power savings techniques and technology using the the Wolverine MCU (MSP430FR58xx):

  • Ultra low leakage (ULL) process technology. TI developed ULL technology that offers a 10x improvement in leakage and optimized mixed signal capabilities. Power reduction are also achieved thanks to an improved 130 nm process technology and more than 30 power-optimized analog and digital components.
  • Unified FRAM (Ferroelectric Random Access Memory). Taking advantage of FRAM  low power memory, “Wolverine”-based MCUs can operate at less than 100 µA/MHz in active mode and consume 250x less energy per bit compared to Flash- and EEPROM-based microcontrollers. In addition, FRAM is 100 percent non-volatile, which gives developers the low power, speed and flexibility of SRAM while retaining the key no-power storage capability of Flash
  • MSP430 ultra-low-power system legacy, peripherals and software for easy development. The new platform takes advantages of exiting MSP430 features as well as TI’s  MSP430Ware software and resource package, and low-power code optimization software tools.

Comparison of battery life based on IC

Battery Life Comparison: CPU vs MPU vs MCU vs Wolverine Platform

Battery powered devices usually have a lifetime of 10 years, with Wolverine technology this would be extended to 20 years. Such low power MCU may also enable devices powered by energy harvesting where you never need to replace the battery. With this technology, Texas Instruments envisions low power devices such as a device worn on your finger that allows intuitive, touch-free interaction with the digital world. or a solar panel the size of a microcontroller that enables environmental intelligence in any building or a smoke detector with carbon monoxide sensing, thermostat control and biometric security capabilities without increasing its size.

You can watch the video introduction of Texas Instruments’s Wolverine platform.

The “Wolverine” MSP430FR58xx microcontrollers will be available for sampling in June 2012. However TI says that developers can get started with existing MSP430 solutions.

You can find more information on TI Wolverine page as well as on this Wolverine Platform PDF Presentation.

Cymbet EnerChip Solid State Batteries and Energy Harvesting Evaluation Kits

February 17th, 2012 No comments

Cymbet Battery ChipsetCymbet has developed rechargeable solid state batteries called EnerChip for Embedded Energy, Power Backup and Energy Harvesting. Applications include backing up Real Time Clocks (RTC), Micro-controllers (MCU) and SRAM devices. The company says “EnerChips are ideal for energy harvesting powered devices such as wireless sensors, medical devices, data loggers and remote location tracking equipment.”

Those chipsets aim at replacing batteries such as CR2032 batteries that you can find in watches, calculators and other low power devices.

The company emphasized three key benefits of such “batteries”:

  1. EnerChips are more than 10x smaller than non-rechargeable coin cell batteries
  2. EnerChips last 3x longer than conventional coin cell batteries
  3. EnerChips are less expensive to use than conventional coin cell batteries or super caps. The price starts at 20 US cents in volume quantities.

You can watch the promotion video below for an overview of those chips. Cymbet shows a lot of mobile phones in their video, but I very doubt this can be used in such power hungry embedded devices in any useful manner.

Cymbet has several EnerChip Solid State Battery evaluation kits including energy harvesting kits that support light, vibration, thermal gradients, electromagnetic and flow/motion energy harvesting transducers:

    • CBC-EVAL-05 EnerChip CC Evaluation Kit contains everything needed to test: EnerChip 12uAh and 50uAh thin film batteries, EnerChip CC CBC3112 and CBC3150 batteries with Integrated Battery Management and to test multiple batteries in parallel. (Around 30 USD)
    • CBC-EVAL-06 EnerChip CC Real Time Clock Power Backup Evaluation Kit Experiment with a small footprint battery backup for low power RTC. A Micro Crystal 2123 RTC with oscillator can be backed up for 92 hours with the EnerChip CC CBC3112. USB stick with PC GUI. (Around 30 USD)
    • CBC-EVAL-08 EnerChip EH Solar Energy Harvesting Evaluation Kit is used to create Zero-power designs for sensors, controllers, embedded systems, medical applications, environmental control systems and any “un-tethered” system. (No price available)
    • CBC-EVAL-09 EnerChip EP Universal Energy Harvesting Evaluation Kit accepts inputs from solar, piezoelectric, thermoelectric or electromagnetic EH transducers. Features the EnerChip EP CBC915 Energy Processor Chip and EnerChip Solid State Batteries. (Around 120 USD)
    • CBC-EVAL-10 EnerChip CC Solar Energy Harvesting Evaluation Kit uses the EnerChip CC CBC3150 to provide a single chip solution for EH power conversion, energy storage and power management. A low cost solution for solar-based sensors. (Around 70 USD)
Solar Energy Harvesting Kit

Cymbet CBC-EVAL-10 Solar Energy Harvesting Kit

  • CBC-EVAL-11 EnerChip RF Induction Charging Evaluation Kit utilizes EnerAir™ near field RF coupling techniques between two antennas to charge a CBC3150 energy storage device. Perfect for active RFID medical applications, data loggers and other “reusable” types of sensors. (Around 50 USD)

There are also 4 other kits using Cymbet EH Kits in conjunction with Texas Instruments and Microchip MCU Kits:

  • Digi-key TI CC430 and Cymbet EnerChip Alternate Energy Eval Board. This kit combines a TI CC430 MCU/Wireless combo device with an EnerChip CC CBC3150 and CBC050 connected to a solar cell. The EnerChips store energy and provide power management for the CC430 and LCD display.  (99 USD)
  • Cymbet EH Eval Kits for TI MSP430 LaunchPad Kit. The EnerChip EP EVAL-09, EnerChip CC Solar EH EVAL-10 and the EnerChip CC RF Induction Charger EVAL-11 can all be used to power the TI LaunchPad kit.
  • Microchip XLP 16-Bit Ultra Low Power MCU Solar Energy Harvesting Application Development Kit – This kit enables designers to develop complete EH applications using all the supplied hardware and software. (195 USD)
  • TI eZ430-RF2500-SEH – This Solar Energy Harvesting Wireless Demo Kit utilizes the Cymbet EnerChip EH solar module with the MSP430 MCU and CC2500 radio. All hardware, firmware and graphical user interface software is included. Works with Cymbet EVAL-08, EVAL-09, EVAL-10 and EVAL-11 (152 USD)

Watch a demo with four CBC-EVAL-09 EnerChip EP Universal Energy Harvesting Evaluation Kits charged with photovoltaic, thermoelectic, piezoelectric or electromagnetic energy harvesting transducer and reporting the temperature via Zigbee to a program running in a Laptop.

For more information about thin film batteries, visit the Cymbet website:

For details on the evaluation kits including video demos, firmware download and link to purchase via Cymbet’s distributors, visit

Cymbet will be at Embedded World 2012, Nuremberg on February 28 – March 01 to promote and showcase those products.