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Design of a Solar-Harvesting Circuit for Batteryless Embedded Systems

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4 Author(s)
Brunelli, D. ; Dept. of Electron., Comput. Sci. & Syst. (DEIS), Univ. of Bologna, Bologna, Italy ; Moser, C. ; Thiele, L. ; Benini, L.

The limited battery lifetime of modern embedded systems and mobile devices necessitates frequent battery recharging or replacement. Solar energy and small-size photovoltaic (PV) systems are attractive solutions to increase the autonomy of embedded and personal devices attempting to achieve perpetual operation. We present a battery less solar-harvesting circuit that is tailored to the needs of low-power applications. The harvester performs maximum-power-point tracking of solar energy collection under nonstationary light conditions, with high efficiency and low energy cost exploiting miniaturized PV modules. We characterize the performance of the circuit by means of simulation and extensive testing under various charging and discharging conditions. Much attention has been given to identify the power losses of the different circuit components. Results show that our system can achieve low power consumption with increased efficiency and cheap implementation. We discuss how the scavenger improves upon state-of-the-art technology with a measured power consumption of less than 1 mW. We obtain increments of global efficiency up to 80%, diverging from ideality by less than 10%. Moreover, we analyze the behavior of super capacitors. We find that the voltage across the supercapacitor may be an unreliable indicator for the stored energy under some circumstances, and this should be taken into account when energy management policies are used.

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Circuits and Systems I: Regular Papers, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:56 ,  Issue: 11 )