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Ultra-Low-Power Sensors and Receivers for IoT Applications


The combination of ultra-low power analog front-ends and CMOS-compatible transducers enable new applications, such as environmental monitors, household appliances, health trackers, etc. that are seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. Furthermore, wireless connectivity allows many of these sensors to operate both independently and collectively. These techniques collectively fulfil the recent surge of internet-of-things (IoT) applications that have the potential to fundamentally change daily life for millions of people.

In this dissertation, the circuit and system design of wireless receivers and sensors is presented that explores the challenges of implementing long lifespan, high accuracy, and large coverage range IoT sensor networks. The first is a wake-up receiver (WuRX), which continuously monitors the RF environment to wake up a higher-power radio upon detection of a predetermined RF signature. This work both improves sensitivity and reduces power over prior art through a multi-faceted design featuring an impedance transformation network with large passive voltage gain, an active envelope detector with high input impedance to facilitate large passive voltage gain, a low-power precision comparator, and a low-leakage digital baseband correlator.

Although pushing the prior WuRX performance boundary by orders of magnitude, the first work shows moderate sensitivity, inferior temperature robustness, and large area with external lumped components. Thus, the second work shows a miniaturized WuRX that is temperature-compensated, yet still consumes only nano-watt power and millimeter area while operating at 9 GHz. To further reduce the area, a global common-mode feedback is utilized across the envelope detector and baseband amplifier that eliminates the need for off-chip ac-coupling components. Multiple temperature-compensation techniques are proposed to maintain constant bandwidth of the signal path and constant clock frequency. Both WuRXs operate at 0.4 V supply, consume near-zero power and achieve ~-70 dBm sensitivity.

Lastly, the first reported CMOS 2-in-1 relative humidity and temperature sensor is presented. A unified analog front-end interfaces on-chip transducers and converts the inputs into a frequency vis a high-linearity frequency-locked loop. An incomplete-settling switched-capacitor-based Wheatstone bridge is proposed to sense the inputs in a power-efficient fashion.

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