Energy harvesting power chip designer broadens portfolio

March 16, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
Belgian startup E-Peas Semiconductors in Liege is launching a series of energy harvest management ICs to follow on from its first device, the AEM10940.

Company CEO Geoffroy Gosset, told eeNews Europe that these chips would be coming out in the next few months and would comprise energy harvest management for solar, thermoelectric generators, vibration harvesters, and RF.

"The AEM10940 is in volume production but it is hardwired for solar and at low voltage, so it is really for single-cell applications. The next generation products will allow 5V input and up to six cells in series," Gosset said. "It will allow us to extract more power and include an automatic switch to the primary battery." Gosset added that another part would be optimized for thermoelectric generation (TEG) with a cold start as low as 80mV.

But E-Peas' mission is to address Internet of Things applications on two fronts. One is by increasing harvested energy the second is to reduce the energy consumption of circuit blocks. The common factor between the two is an expertise in sub-threshold voltage circuit design.

And on this basis E-Peas is designing both a low-power microcontroller and a low-power CMOS image sensor, Gosset said. He said he expects both to be ready in the first quarter of 2018.

Gosset declined to provide more details but it has been previously announced that E-Peas is developing a 32-bit microcontroller. The microcontroller, of undisclosed architecture, consumes about 20 percent of the power of other 32bit MCUs, E-peas claims. The architecture selected is "well-known." This suggests that it will be a sub-threshold voltage implementation of a known architecture such as ARM or MIPS or possibly E-Peas will embrace the open-source alternative RISC-V.

However, such design efforts are not trivial and usually require significant backing to pay design staff and for engineering costs. "We've been working on the MCU for two years," said Gosset. On the financial front he added: "We have almost closed a €3 million venture capital round."

www.e-peas.com

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