ChipSensors puts wireless sensors on chips

  • September 18, 2007
  • News
Cambridge, September 18, 2007 - ChipSensors unveiled a breakthrough in semiconductor technology that enables the surface of the chip itself to sense parameters such as temperature, humidity, certain gases and pathogens. The patent-pending technology exploits the fact that the dielectric material in standard sub-micron CMOS comprises porous oxides and polymers; by selectively admitting or blocking ingress of the agent to be sensed, any resulting changes in electrical characteristics can be accurately detected and measured.The sensor technology is being shown in public for the first time at the RFID Europe 2007 exhibition in Cambridge. Visitors to booth 17 will be able to see a working demonstration of a prototype single-chip temperature and humidity sensor, communicating via an off-chip wireless link to a laptop PC displaying real-time measurements.The 0.13 µm sensor chip being shown at RFID Europe has obvious applications as an all-electronic replacement for the type of electromechanical thermostats and humidistats used in building management and environmental monitoring systems. ChipSensors is also currently developing an ultra-low-power wireless version of this sensor - which integrates all the signal conditioning, microcontroller, memory and RF transceiver functions onto the same chip as the sensor itself - for incorporation into passive and active ID tags.ChipSensors Ltd was founded in 2006, as a spin-out from a design consultancy that specialises in wireless sensors. Initially self-funded, with matching grants and equity from various government agencies, the company attracted sufficient venture capital to seed development of its innovative silicon sensors. ChipSensors is now on the verge of commercialising this technology, and is currently engaged in negotiations with international customers, partners and potential investors.Until now, most sensors have been manufactured on glass or ceramic substrates, using specialist materials and manufacturing processes, and have proved difficult, if not impossible, to accommodate within mainstream foundry CMOS processes. The wafers had to be post-processed and the sensors then required testing and calibrating after packaging, which was time-consuming and expensive. ChipSensors' proprietary technology overcomes these obstacles. It enables sensors, signal conditioning circuits - including high resolution analog-to-digital converters - and RF transceiver functions, together with the microcontroller and memory, to be integrated on a single chip, fabricated entirely from standard CMOS.According to Tim Cummins, Chipsensors' CEO, "By 'piggy-backing' on mainstream semiconductor technology developments in this manner, we are 'putting sensors on Moore's Law', opening the door to true low-cost and high volume scalability for wireless sensors."EndsNote about Moore's LawEven today, over four decades after it was first mooted, Moore's Law pretty much holds true: the number of transistors on semiconductor ICs doubles every 24 months. Ever higher levels of functional integration are routinely achieved by the semiconductor manufacturing industry. The user advantages are both economic and technical: smaller, higher functionality chips reduce unit costs and time-to-market, and generally result in improved performance and lower power consumption, due to shorter interconnects and reduced parasitic capacitance.About ChipSensors LimitedChipSensors is a fabless semiconductor start-up, based in Limerick, Ireland.It has an engineering office in Dublin, Ireland, and a US sales office in Boston, Mass. Founded in 2006, the company specialises in the development of novel CMOS sensors for measuring temperature, humidity and certain gases. Learn More

Did you enjoy this great article?

Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..