A POWER DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM BUILT FOR A VARIETY OF UNATTENDED ELECTRONICS
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A power distribution system (PDS) delivers electrical power to a load safely and effectively in a pre-determined format. Here format refers to necessary voltages, current levels and time variation of either as required by the empowered system. This formatting is usually referred as "conditioning". The research reported in this dissertation presents a complete system focusing on low power energy harvesting, conditioning, storage and regulation. Energy harvesting is a process by which ambient energy present in the environment is captured and converted to electrical energy. In recent years, it has become a prominent research area in multiple disciplines. Several energy harvesting schemes have been exploited in the literature, including solar energy, mechanic energy, radio frequency (RF) energy, thermal energy, electromagnetic energy, biochemical energy, radioactive energy and so on. Different from the large scale energy generation, energy harvesting typically operates in milli-watts or even micro-watts power levels. Almost all energy harvesting schemes require stages of power conditioning and intermediate storage - batteries or capacitors that reservoir energy harvested from the environment. Most of the ambient energy fluctuates and is usually weak. The purpose of power conditioning is to adjust the format of the energy to be further used, and intermediate storage smoothes out the impact of the fluctuations on the power delivered to the load. This dissertation reports an end to end power distribution system that integrates different functional blocks including energy harvesting, power conditioning, energy storage, output regulation and system control. We studied and investigated different energy harvesting schemes and the dissertation places emphasis on radio frequency energy harvesting. This approach has proven to be a viable power source for low-power electronics. However, it is still challenging to obtain significant amounts of energy rapidly and efficiently from the ambient. Available RF power is usually very weak, leading to low voltage applied to the electronics. The power delivered to the PDS is hard to utilize or store. This dissertation presents a configuration including a wideband rectenna, a switched capacitor voltage boost converter and a thin film flexible battery cell that can be re-charged at an exceptionally low voltage. We demonstrate that the system is able to harvest energy from a commercially available hand-held communication device at an overall efficiency as high as 7.7 %. Besides the RF energy harvesting block, the whole PDS includes a solar energy harvesting block, a USB recharging block, a customer selection block, two battery arrays, a control block and an output block. The functions of each of the blocks have been tested and verified. The dissertation also studies and investigates several potential applications of this PDS. The applications we exploited include an ultra-low power tunable neural oscillator, wireless sensor networks (WSNs), medical prosthetics and small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). We prove that it is viable to power these potential loads through energy harvesting from multiple sources.