Self-Powered Sensor Systems
Electrical engineering professor Patrick Mercier is working to drastically reduce the power requirements of future wearable sensor systems. At the same time, his lab is developing technologies to collect—from the environment—the small amounts of energy that would be required to power these ultra-efficient systems. His lab, for example, is developing better ways to scavenge energy from sweat from the skin or from electromagnetic radiation such as WiFi signals.
Mercier plans to embed these tiny self-powered sensor systems into clothing, where they will never need recharging. Such systems could monitor your heart rate, hydration levels and blood sugar while sending the information wirelessly to your phone. Patients at risk could be warned of an oncoming heart attack. The system might even automatically call an ambulance.
"My research group is called the Energy Efficient Microsystems Group. The key is the word 'systems.' We're working on biosensors, we're working on the electronics that interface with the sensors, we're working on the analog-to-digital converters for the biological data we collect, we're working on the wireless radios that communicate the information to your smartphone or smartwatch, and we're working on the energy management and energy harvesting side of things," said Mercier, who is the associate director of the Center for Wearable Sensors. His high-level goal for the research: to help people and to improve health care.