Non-volatile Processors Retain Progress amid Power Outages

Achievement date: 
2016
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Sensors that rely on intermittent power, such as solar, are more reliable with processors that continue their progress as energy comes and go, according to research by the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), funded by the NSF and based at North Carolina State University.

Impact/benefits: 

The development of novel architectures, such as those incorporating non-volatile processors, will enable sensors that can operate reliably without the bulk of batteries or external energy sources. These self-powered electronics can perform tasks, such as steadily measuring ultraviolet radiation or temperatures, that are enabling a new level of personal health management, workplace safety, and military applications.

Explanation/Background: 

:  This collaborative effort, with Tsinghua University in China and Rohm Corp., analyzed the design space between volatile and non-volatile processors, which when not powered lose or retain data, respectively. The ASSIST research is helping to identify how to best use non-volatile processors in a sensor system that relies on ambient energy, which frequently is unavailable to the sensor.

The ASSIST research demonstrated entirely battery-free operation of a non-volatile processor continuously monitoring ultraviolet radiation while intermittently powered by a solar cell. This paper received Best Paper award at the 2015 IEEE Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture