The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a new program to develop sensors that consume very little power over time, essentially laying dormant until a particular event occurs and then gathering and relaying data to new relevant people. Known as the Near Zero Power RF and Sensor Operations (N-ZERO) program, the goal of the project is to reduce battery consumption during the dormant period to less than 10 nanowatts (nW). This rate of consumption is approximately 1,000 times lower than the most efficient sensors currently available and roughly equal to the natural discharge that occurs when a battery is doing nothing but aging.
“It is the waiting for a specific event or activity that constrains mission life and drains the battery energy of these essential electronics,” said Troy Olsson, DARPA program manager, in a release. “By cutting reliance on active power and enhancing battery life, N-ZERO aims to enable wireless, ubiquitous sensing that is energy efficient and safer for the warfighter. Our goal is to use the right signal itself to wake up the sensor, which would improve sensors’ effectiveness and warfighters’ situational awareness by drastically reducing false alarms.”
By reducing the lifespan of a sensor from weeks to years, maintenance costs will be greatly reduced. Fewer missions would be required to replace sensors in a warfare scenario, too. Ultimately, the technology could trickle down to the consumer level and improve the lifespan of wireless sensors used for Internet of Things applications.
“By advancing state-of-the-art sensing capabilities for national security through N-ZERO, DARPA could help make the Internet of Things more efficient and effective across countless scenarios and environments, thus transforming the way people live,” Olsson said.
DARPA is seeking proposals for the N-ZERO program. Details are available in the Broad Agency Announcement.