Researchers Develop a Miniature Zero-Power Radio Receiver that Can Provide Continuous Wireless Connectivity

Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) has developed a miniature, Zero-Power Radio Receiver that can be easily integrated in devices to provide continuous wireless connectivity. The underlying principle behind the Zero-Power Receiver is that the powered radio frequency electronics that are used in most wireless receivers can be replaced with electronics that require no power supply or battery.

Using this technology, a short range radio receiver (< 100m) can be built that uses no power other than the received RF signal. A longer range radio receiver can also be built that uses power only for DC amplification, which can result in 10,000x lower power consumption than a conventional radio receiver operating at the same power level.

The Zero-Power Receiver directly demodulates an amplitude modulated wake-up signal sent from a transmitter. The amplitude modulation can be sent using pulse coding to provide a unique device selective turn-on signal to the Receiver. It uses Sandia's patented pyroelectric demodulator to provide direct RF-to-baseband conversion over a wide RF input frequency range and modulation bandwidths. The input impedance of the pyroelectric demodulator provides a match to 50 ohm circuitry over a very wide bandwidth, ultimately only limited by the electronics packaging that contains the device.

This technology solves multiple communication issues. When incorporated into a cellular phone or used for GPS, it eliminates the need for the device to constantly power on and off waiting for contact - greatly extending battery life. It can also increase the range and decrease size of RFID tags. Some of its technological benefits include:

  • Completely unpowered operation for short range receivers
  • Ultra-low power for long range receivers
  • Extremely wide input bandwidth

The technology can be used for a number of applications like in cellular devices, wearable electronics, home automation, automotive control & sensing, biomedical devices, wireless RFID tags, animal tracking studies and national security.