Tohoku University, Japan, and NEC Corporation have developed a Micro Control Unit (MCU) for wireless sensors using spintronic circuit technology. Early testing has demonstrated that power consumption of the new MCU has been reduced to as little as 1/80 of conventional systems.
As a result, the battery life of sensors equipped with this new MCU can be extended by as much as 10 times.
Currently, expectations are growing for technology that analyzes a large volume of data (big data) collected from various sensing systems to identify current conditions, such as system errors and equipment failures, and to make use of the data for predicting future conditions.
The maintenance of social infrastructure, such as bridges and tunnels, requires a high-performance wireless sensor capable of stable, prolonged operation in order to constantly collect and transmit data related to the infrastructure’s status. Although it is essential to improve the performance of the MCU, which is the processing center, increased power consumption becomes a challenge when the performance of a wireless sensor is improved.
Tohoku University and NEC have jointly developed a new MCU technology to significantly reduce the power consumption of a high-performance MCU. A high-performance MCU normally consumes a large amount of power, but this technology reduces the standby power of the entire MCU by making the logic circuits and memory in the MCU non-volatile, and achieving both high performance and power savings at the same time. Applying this MCU to a wireless sensor enables the advanced processing of data while substantially reducing power consumption.
The spintronics elements utilized in the power control circuits and multiple function blocks within the logic circuit enable high-speed power control while minimizing standby power. As the power of a necessary function block can be turned on as quickly as within approximately 120 nanoseconds, the power can be turned on and off as many times as necessary to reduce unnecessary power consumption.
The new CPU provides efficient control by canceling the overwriting process when writing the same data in order to minimize the power consumed by unnecessary writing.
A prototype micro control unit based on spintronic circuits has been constructed and used in an experiment with a wireless sensor. The experiment successfully demonstrated a reduction in the power consumption to 1/80 when compared to conventional systems.
These results will contribute to the creation of a wireless sensor that is able to achieve both high performance and low power consumption, while considerably reducing maintenance frequency, and promoting the utilization of big data using advanced sensors.