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Wireless Power for Sensors

Replacing batteries is never convenient, but when the battery is powering a biomedical sensor implanted under your collarbone, replacing a battery means a trip to the hospital - not the convenience store.

Electrical engineering Ph.D. student Paul Theilmann is developing new technologies to free biomedical sensors of batteries and to run them on wireless energy instead.

Wireless energy, most often in the form of radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic waves, is already used to power sensors and RFID tags. One drawback, however, is that the wireless energy sources must be relatively strong and homogenous. Theilmann's work will enable sensors to run on much weaker and less uniform wireless signals thanks to his record-breaking "rectifier" that converts wireless energy to DC power. Unlike standard rectifiers, Theilmann's employs "intrinsic transistors" and a novel design that enables it to harness extremely weak and non-uniform radio signals.

The new rectifier may also lead to power scavenging sensors that collect ambient RF energy from cell phone towers and radio transmitters. It could also be used to power sensors that are too small to interface with a battery.

Computer-aided design (CAD) layout of a new "rectifier" that will convert wireless energy to DC power for biomedical sensors.

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