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Extending lifetime of battery-operated devices is a key design issue that allows uninterrupted information exchange among distributed nodes in wireless networks. Cooperative communications has recently emerged as a new communication paradigm that enables and leverages effective resource sharing among cooperative nodes. In this paper, a general framework for lifetime extension of battery-operated devices by exploiting cooperative diversity is proposed. The framework efficiently takes advantage of different locations and energy levels among distributed nodes. First, a lifetime maximization problem via cooperative nodes is considered and performance analysis for M-ary PSK modulation is provided. With an objective to maximize the minimum device lifetime under a constraint on bit-error-rate performance, the optimization problem determines which nodes should cooperate and how much power should be allocated for cooperation. Since the formulated problem is NP hard, a closed-form solution for a two-node network is derived to obtain some insights. Based on the two-node solution, a fast suboptimal algorithm is developed for multi-node scenarios. Moreover, the device lifetime is further improved by a deployment of cooperative relays in order to help forward information of the distributed nodes in the network. Optimum location and power allocation for each cooperative relay are determined with an aim to maximize the minimum device lifetime. A suboptimal algorithm is developed to solve the problem with multiple cooperative relays and cooperative nodes. Simulation results show that the minimum device lifetime of the network with cooperative nodes improves 2 times longer than the lifetime of the non-cooperative network. In addition, deploying a cooperative relay in a proper location leads up to 12 times longer lifetime than that of the non-cooperative network.