At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the big theme was the “Internet of things” — the idea that everything in the human environment, from kitchen appliances to industrial equipment, could be equipped with sensors and processors that can exchange data, helping with maintenance and the coordination of tasks. Realizing that vision, however, requires transmitters that are powerful enough to broadcast to devices dozens of yards away but energy-efficient enough to last for months — or even to harvest energy from heat or mechanical vibrations.
“A key challenge is designing these circuits with extremely low standby power, because most of these devices are just sitting idling, waiting for some event to trigger a communication,” explains Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor in Electrical Engineering at MIT. “When it’s on, you want to be as efficient as possible, and when it’s off, you want to really cut off the off-state power, the leakage power.” Chandrakasan — along with Arun Paidimarri, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and first author on the paper, and Nathan Ickes, a research scientist in Chandrakasan’s lab — reduces the leakage by applying a negative charge to the gate when the transmitter is idle. That drives electrons away from the electrical leads, making the semiconductor a much better insulator. Continue reading on MIT News.