When the bq25504, the highly efficient boost charger for nano power energy harvesting, debuted late in 2011, it represented the first product distributed to market that originated in Kilby Labs. Equally telling, is the collaborative development that TI undertook on the project with a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering and department head of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, has been actively collaborating with TI for more than 15 years through a number of programs. He participated in the TI Digital Signal Processing Leadership University program, which was established to drive innovations and promote advances in signal processing technology.

Chandrakasan served as technical advisor working with the bq25504 design team to carry the project from design to manufacturing.

According to Chandrakasan, energy harvesting – the process by which energy readily available from the environment is captured and converted into usable electrical energy – represents an opportunity for continued research.

As the number of products that contain these devices increases, the need to power devices using ambient energy sources such as light, heat and motion also is growing.

“In many applications (e.g., implanted bio-medical applications), replacing a battery is not practical,” Chandrakasan said. “The ultimate goal is to integrate the energy source, conversion and storage along with the electronics.”

Chandrakasan said his discussions with TI on potential research in this real realm dates back some 5 years.

 “I recall having interesting discussions with Gene Frantz during Leadership University visits about the notion of ‘energy buffering’ to smooth out the fluctuations in energy from energy harvesting sources,” Chandrakasan said. “The energy consumption of electronic circuits has dramatically dropped to the point that self-powered operation is now practical, leading to the bq25504.”

Gaurang Shah, vice president and general manager of Battery Management Systems at TI, said the bq25504 represents a significant step in the development of zero or no-power battery and power management circuits.

“It's a shining example of research and innovation supported in Kilby Labs and MIT making it to the mainstream,” Shah said. “This device will fulfill the vision of extending battery life and enabling self-powering functionality for a wide range of applications such as industrial and home automation, medical and mobile devices as well as computer peripherals.”

The production of the bq25504, Chandrakasan said, does not represent end-to-energy harvesting research. Future opportunities for study, he said, could include developing energy harvesting technology for fully implanted bio-medical systems extracting power from the human body as well as extracting energy from emerging energy sources (e.g., printed solar cells) and fully integrated systems integrating energy source, conversion and storage.

Be sure to check back on Around TI soon for more information on the bq25504, research and development within TI and other stories on the company’s collaborative research with university professors and students.



August 30, 2012