Development of Low-power Wireless Sensor Nodes based on Assembled Nanowire Devices
Networked wireless sensor systems have the potential to play a major role in critical applications including: environmental monitoring of chemical/biological attacks; condition-based maintenance of vehicles, ships and aircraft; real-time monitoring of civil infrastructure including roads, bridges etc.; security and surveillance for homeland defense systems; and battlefield surveillance and monitoring. Such wireless sensor networks can provide remote monitoring and control of operations of large-scale systems using low-power, low-cost, "throw-away" sensor nodes. This thesis focuses on two aspects of wireless sensor node development: (1) post-IC assembly of nanosensor devices onto prefabricated complementary-metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuits using a technique called dielectrophoretic (DEP) assembly; and (2) design of a low-power SiGe BiCMOS multi-band ultra-wideband (UWB) transmitter for wireless communications with other nodes and/or a central control unit in a wireless sensor network.
For the first part of this work, a DEP assembly test chip was designed and fabricated using the five-metal core CMOS platform technology of Motorola's HiP6W low-voltage 0.18Êm Si/SiGe BiCMOS process. The CMOS chip size was 2.5mm ~ 2.5 mm. The required AC signal for assembling nanowires is provided to the bottom electrodes defined in the Metal 4 (M4) layer of the IC process. This signal is then capacitively coupled to the top/assembly electrodes defined in the top metal (M5) layer that is also interconnected to appropriate readout circuitry. The placement and alignment of the nanowires on the top electrodes are defined by dielectrophoretic forces that act on the nanowires. For proof of concept purposes, metallic rhodium nanowires (length = 5Êm and diameter = 250 nm) were used in this thesis to demonstrate assembly onto the prefabricated CMOS chip. The rhodium nanowires were manufactured using a nanotemplated electroplating technique. In general, the DEP assembly technique can be used to manipulate a wider range of nanoscale devices (nanowire sensors, nanotubes, etc.), allowing their individual assembly onto prefabricated CMOS chips and can be extended to integrate diverse functionalized nanosensors with sensor readout, data conversion and data communication functionalities in a single-chip environment. In addition, this technique provides a highly-manufacturable platform for the development of multifunctional wireless sensor nodes based on assembled nano-sensor devices.
The resistances of the assembled nanowires were measured to be on the order of 110 ¶ consistent with prior prototype results. Several issues involved in achieving successful assembly of nanowires and good electrical continuity between the nanowires and metal layers of IC processes are addressed in this thesis. The importance of chemical/mechanical planarization (CMP) technique in modern IC processes and considerations for electrical isolation of readout circuit from the assembly sites are discussed.
For the second part of this work, a multi-band hopping ultrawideband transmitter was designed to operate in three different frequency bands namely, 4.8 GHz, 6.4 GHz and 8.0 GHz. As a part of this effort, this thesis includes the design of a CMOS phase/frequency detector (PFD), a CMOS pseudo-random code generator and an on-chip passive loop filter, which were designed for the multi-band PLL frequency synthesizer. The CMOS PFD provided phase tracking over a range of -2Î to +2Î radians. The on-chip passive loop filter was designed for a 62 phase margin, 250 ÊA-charge pump output current and 4 MHz-PLL loop-bandwidth. The CMOS pseudorandom code generator provided a two-bit output that helped switch the frequency bands of the UWB transmitter. With all these components, along with a BiCMOS VCO, a CMOS charge pump and a CMOS frequency divider, the simulated PLL frequency synthesizer locked within a relatively short time of 700ns in all three design frequency bands. The die area for the multi-band UWB transmitter as laid out was 1.5 mm ~ 1.0 mm.
Future work proposed by this thesis includes sequential assembly of diverse functionalized gas/chemical nanosensor elements into arrays in order to realize highly sensitive "electronic noses". With integration of such diverse functionalized nano-scale sensors with low-power read-out and data communication system, a versatile and commercially viable low-power wireless sensor system can be realized.