A cheaper, greener Internet of Things without wires

A greener internet of things without the wires

Wireless electronics developed by KAUST researchers can help make IoT technology greener. Credit: © 2022 KAUST; Hino Hwang

Wireless large-area electronics could enable a greener, cheaper Internet of Things.

An international team led by KAUST suggests that emerging forms of thin-film device technologies based on alternative semiconductor materials, such as printable organic materials, carbon nanostructures, and metal oxides, could contribute to a more sustainable Internet of Things (IoT). economically and environmentally. .

The Internet of Things is set to have a significant impact on daily life and many industries. It connects and facilitates the exchange of data between many smart objects of different shapes and sizes — such as remotely controlled home security systems, self-driving cars with sensors that detect obstacles on the road, and temperature-controlled factory equipment — via the Internet and sensor and communications networks other.

This burgeoning supernetwork is expected to reach trillions of devices by the next decade, increasing the number of sensor nodes deployed across its core systems.

The current methods used to power sensor nodes rely on battery technology, but batteries need regular replacement, which is expensive and harmful to the environment over time. Also, the current global production of lithium for battery materials may not keep pace with the growing energy demand from the bloated number of sensors.

Sensor nodes that operate wirelessly can help achieve a sustainable IoT by extracting energy from the environment using so-called energy harvesters, such as photovoltaics and radio frequency (RF) energy harvesters, among other technologies. Large area electronics can be key in enabling these power sources.

KAUST graduate Kalaivanan Loganathan, along with Thomas Anthopoulos and co-workers, have evaluated the feasibility and potential of several large-scale electronic technologies to deliver environmentally friendly wireless IoT sensors.

Large-area electronics have recently emerged as an attractive alternative to traditional silicon-based technologies thanks to significant advances in solution-based processing, which have made devices and circuits easier to print on flexible, large-area substrates. They can be produced at lower temperatures and on biodegradable substrates such as paper, which makes them more environmentally friendly than their silicone-based counterparts.

Over the years, Anthopoulos’ team has developed a range of RF electronic components, including metal oxide devices and organic polymer-based semiconductors known as Schottky diodes. “These devices are key components in wireless power harvesters, and ultimately dictate the performance and cost of sensor nodes,” says Loganathan.

Key contributions from the KAUST team include scalable methods for fabricating RF diodes for power harvesting up to the 5G/6G frequency band. “Technologies like these provide the necessary building blocks towards a more sustainable way of running billions of compute nodes in the near future,” says Anthopoulos.

Loganathan adds that the team is studying unilateral integration of these low-power devices with antenna and sensors to showcase their true potential.

Reference: “Wireless Wide Area Electronic Devices for the Internet of Things” by Louis Portela, Kallivanan Loganathan, Hendrik Faber, Allen Ide, Jamie JD Hester, and Manos M. Fiore, Taoufik Ben Mohamed, Thomas D. Anthopoulos and Vincenzo Becconia, December 28, 2022, Available Here. Nature’s electronics.
DOI: 10.1038/s41928-022-00898-5

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