A researcher at New Mexico State University may have a new approach to wireless sensors that will not only make them smaller, but far more energy efficient as well. Wei Tang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has focused on how these devices communicate.
Many sensors incorporate radio transceivers that are always on, which requires more energy and thus larger batteries to store the required power. Tang’s approach takes a more natural approach, in which the device operates “asynchronously” like the human brain. His sensors would only speak when they have something to say, or process incoming instructions when the instructions are received.
As a result, he has created tiny circuits that are only 3 mm square; that’s about the size of a small slice off a typical bamboo skewer. These could be powered by tiny batteries, or their power needs may be small enough that they could be met entirely through energy harvesting. He is already collaborating with biology researchers to use this new sensor technology to study everything from hummingbirds to electric fish.