Low energy sensors for the Internet of Things

Together with his research team, Lars-Erik Wernersson, professor of nanoelectronics at Lund University in Sweden, has developed a technology for smarter transistors which could be used in electronics that operate on low energy, such as sensors for the Internet of Things. Using the new transistors on a large scale could save enormous amounts of energy.

Transistors are the smallest building blocks in electronics – a kind of switch. When the amount of energy required to switch the transistors on or off is reduced, major savings can be made overall. Transistors with low-energy consumption are expected to be highly significant for applications within the Internet of Things.

With the help of nanotechnology, the material and architecture in the transistors have been optimised so that they consume only a third of the energy required with the current technology when operating at low voltages. They can be used in digital circuits, various sensors and communication.

“We have been able to operate the transistors under what is known as the fundamental thermionic limit, which reduces energy consumption. The next step is to continue to study the physics and to understand the components better, so that they can be further optimised. We also want to find new ways of transferring the technology to industry,” says Lars-Erik Wernersson.

The researchers’ findings will probably have moved into production processes within five to ten years. According to Lars-Erik Wernersson, the extent of the energy savings will depend on the quality of the components which can be produced in industry.

“The dream scenario is that all data servers will consume less energy thanks to the technology we use. In that case, the savings in one year would be comparable to all the energy consumed in Great Britain during the same period.”

When his researcher colleagues recently reported data from an experiment conducted within the EU-funded E2SWITCH project, Lars-Erik Wernersson, along with the doctoral students who carried out the test, realised that these were ground-breaking results:

“We have repeated the tests many times and succeeded in demonstrating that the performance with this new, energy-saving technology is not only satisfactory, but even better than that based on the traditional technologies.”

According to Lars-Erik Wernersson, the new technology is a complement and one of several technologies which can be used to create more energy-efficient transistors – and different types of applications require different solutions.

“We are very happy to have found something that many people have been searching for. We have shown that the transistors have high performance and that it is possible to reduce energy consumption. And now we can continue to add pieces to the puzzle,” concludes Lars-Erik Wernersson.

Facts / E2SWITCH:
E2SWITCH is a research project funded by the EU which aims to find smart electronic components which also save energy. The consortium comprises nine partners from six European countries.

Source: Lund University