New Compact Energy-Harvesting and Power-Management IC Enables Low-Power Wireless Devices

Maxim Integrated Products (NASDAQ: MXIM) introduces the MAX17710, the industry's first IC to integrate all of the power-management functions for ambient energy harvesting, as well as for charging and protecting micro-energy cells (MECs), a form of solid-state battery. Operating at an ultra-low current level, the MAX17710 accepts energy from a variety of poorly regulated energy harvesting sources with output levels ranging from 1µW to 100mW. Examples include light (captured by photovoltaic cells), vibration (captured by a piezoelectric element), heat (captured by a thermoelectric generator), and RF (e.g., near-field communications (NFC)). The MAX17710 integrates a programmable input boost regulator and needs no expensive external components to charge a MEC with energy sources as low as 0.8V. It protects the MEC by using a linear shunt-series regulator. An ultra-low-quiescent current, adjustable low-dropout linear regulator (LDO) with selectable voltages of 3.3V, 2.3V, or 1.8V allows the MAX17710 to adapt to a variety of loads. Packaged in a low-profile 0.5mm TQFN, it enables a new class of thin, card-like applications. The IC will also be available in wafer form to enable even thinner form factors. The MAX17710 is targeted for powered smart cards, real-time clock (RTC)/memory backup applications, and wireless sensor networks. Examples of wireless sensor networks include remote applications like irrigation valve control, building energy management, machine monitoring systems, asset tracking, biometric security systems, medical applications, and a myriad of portable consumer electronics.

Energy harvesting is poised for rapid and exponential growth. However attractive the energy sources and the uptake potential for business growth, efficient harvesting has been hampered until now by the many different power-management blocks and functions that needed to be combined for the task. As essential components were assembled, more space was consumed, which defeated the goal of reducing application size and cost. Meanwhile, a larger cell was needed for storage because quiescent current was added to the system, and the overall power budget rose to unmanageable levels for low-energy ambient sources.

While creating the MAX17710 energy-harvesting and power-management solution, Maxim worked closely with Infinite Power Solutions, Inc. (IPS), the manufacturer of THINERGY® solid-state, rechargeable MEC battery products. THINERGY MECs are flexible and provide unrivaled rechargeability, cycle life, and power performance. These ultra-thin, postage-stamp-sized energy storage products offer extremely low self-discharge rates, enabling many years of shelf life and still providing reliable backup power. The unprecedented cycle life capability and unique metal foil encapsulation enable decades of reliable, maintenance-free operation.

The MAX17710 provides the energy harvesting and power management to maximize, protect, and control the energy stored in MECs. "When combined with ambient energy harvesting, MECs uniquely enable autonomous, perpetually powered solutions for decades of use," explained David Squires, Vice President of Business Development for Infinite Power Solutions. "In energy harvesting applications, a key enabler is the quiescent current drawn by the power-management IC," Squires added. "The MAX17710 has an unprecedented 1nA battery current draw when a harvesting source is not present."


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