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Cypress chips bring energy harvesting to solar-powered wireless IoT sensors

Steve Rogerson
August 26, 2015
California-based Cypress Semiconductor has announced a family of energy harvesting power management integrated circuits (PMICs) that enable tiny, solar-powered wireless sensors for IoT applications. The devices are claimed to be the world’s lowest-power, single-chip energy harvesting PMICs and can be used with solar cells as small as 1cm2.
The devices are fully integrated, making them suitable for battery-less wireless sensor nodes (WSNs) that monitor physical and environmental conditions for smart homes, commercial buildings, factories, infrastructure and agriculture. The S6AE101A PMIC, the first device in the family, can be paired with the EZ-BLE PRoC module for Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity, along with supporting software, in a $49 kit.
The WSN IoT device market is expected to grow to more than five billion units by 2020, putting a premium on battery-free implementations to reduce cost and maintenance problems. The placement of a WSN may limit its size and the amount of light available, thereby limiting the size and power output of the solar module and the start-up power available for the energy harvesting PMIC.
The Cypress devices address these problems with start-up power of 1.2µW – claimed to be four times lower than the nearest competitor – and consumption current down to 250nA, increasing the power available for the sensing, processing and communications functions of a target application.
The fully certified, small-form-factor EZ-BLE PRoC module works with the PMIC devices to contribute to the low power and ease-of-use of an energy harvesting system.
“The most compelling new wireless sensor nodes that will drive IoT growth are self-powered, can be deployed anywhere for more than ten years, and require minimal deployment and maintenance costs,” said Kiyoe Nagaya, vice president of the analogue business unit at Cypress. “Using our new energy harvesting PMIC and EZ-BLE PRoC Bluetooth Smart module, Cypress offers a complete solution that enables developers to create solar-powered WSNs for battery-less IoT devices.”
The PMICs enable efficient harvesting from sunlight, vibrations and thermal variations, and have dual inputs from two sources simultaneously, making them a reliable, flexible option to power or extend the battery life in IoT applications.
The S6AE101A energy harvesting PMIC is sampling now, with production expected in the fourth quarter of 2015.