Self-Powered RISC-V Microcontroller Operates Without a Battery

January 08, 2020 by Paul Shepard is an ultra-low-power wireless MCU that uses energy harvesting technology. This means that the solely operates on energy from its surroundings. No coincell, no supercap, no lithium, no battery at all - but still a ton of power. It's being developed by Norwegian start-up ONiO. is self-powered and supports a wide range of power sources from multi-frequency RF bands supporting GSM and ISM to optional external sources like solar, piezoelectric, thermal and voltaic cells.

Battery based solutions come with the inevitable caveat of battery replacement, which translates to an incremental cost, throughout their ownership. circumvents this pain point and slashes the cost of ownership. It can be used to power sensors and devices for years, without having to spare a thought about maintenance - deploy and forget.

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Having no battery means fewer components and a smaller design, which can easily be integrated into a wide range of solutions - be it fabrics, jewelry, watches, wearable medical devices, livestock or building sensors. More importantly, this makes for a cleaner, more eco-friendly solution.

Key Specifications

  • MCU - RISC-V 16/32-bit architecture (RV32EMC). High code density with compressed instructions. 1.8V 24MHz, 1.0V 6MHz, 0.8V 1MHz. 450-800mV Asynchronous operation from ROM/RAM.
  • Radio - Crystal-less BTLE transmitter. Programmable output power (-40 to 0dBm). PA supports operation down to 850mV - 0dBm. IEEE 802.15.4 UWB transmitter. 3.5 to 10GHz. Optional 433MHz MICS radio transmitter for medical devices.
  • Peripherals - Industry Standard I2C, SPI and UART. Asynchronous AES module for encryption/hash generation. GPIO with asynchronous interrupt/wake up. Programmable current source. Biasing external sensors.
  • Memory - 1KB of mask ROM (stdlib, math etc). 2KB RAM. 8/16/32KB ULP Flash. 100k Writes. Read supported down to 850mV.
  • Energy sources -
    • Internal RF Rectifier, multi frequency 800/900/1800/ 1900/2400MHz bands (ISM and GSM) supported. 40dBm sensitivity. Simple demodulator chain for RX. Range depending on frequency and duty cycle of energy bearer.
    • Internal Power Factory supports voltaic cells down to 400mVdc Solar, pizoelectric and thermal (1.8V to 3.6V)
  • Operation conditions - Operating voltage: 450mv - 1.8V. Operating frequency: Asynchronous to 24MHz. Operating temperature: -40 to 85°C (Industrial grade). ESD protection HBM >2kV; latchup > 100mA.
  • Medical classification - According to ISO 13485:2016 Quality Management System (QMS) for Medical Devices ensuring compliance with applicable standards and regulations such as IEC 60601 and FCC/ETSI.