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Super energy-efficient, IoT-controlled, and semi-permanently operating miniature devices created by referencing neural circuits in living organisms

2022.05.31

The concept of IoT involves large numbers of objects being connected to the internet. External information must be collected and transmitted wirelessly using sensors and terminal edge devices. However, supplying power to these devices is difficult, and there are severe limitations on the amount of power that can be used. Therefore, technology will be required to control devices with less than one microwatt (one-millionth of a watt) of power in the future.

Neural circuits in living organisms can achieve low power consumption and sophisticated levels of control because individual neurons operate only when and where they are needed. A research group led by Associate Professor Takeaki Yajima of the Graduate School and Faculty of Information Science and Electrical Engineering, Kyushu University, has established a technology to control IoT devices in an ultra-energy-efficient manner using neuronal circuits uniquely designed based on the organic neural circuits.

Specifically, by eliminating unneeded functions and focusing on localized electronic circuit timing control, the group has created a neuron circuit that operates at 1.2 picowatts (one trillionth of a watt), the lowest power consumption in the world. As an example of how this circuit can be used, the group has shown that DC voltage conversion, a standard function of IoT devices, can be performed using ultra-low power consumption of about one nanowatt (one billionth of a watt).

This achievement can be applied to the various functions IoT devices require, such as sensors, wireless connectivity, and power. If these devices can be controlled with an ultra-low power consumption of a few nanowatts, it will be possible to realize small IoT devices that operate semi-permanently utilizing minute levels of environmental power generation using light and vibration. Future progress on this research is expected in the future.

Adapted from "How Neuronal Circuits Can be Used to Control IoT Devices Without Waste" (Scientific Reports 12, 1150 (2022))

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