Zero-power Infrared Radiation (IR) Sensors with Uninterrupted Operation and Unprecedented Accuracy

Northeastern University Background
The latest state-of-the-art sensors continuously drain battery power regardless of the presence of a target signal. As a result, significant battery power is lost while devices are still in “stand-by” mode. The COVID-19 pandemic created a great need for touchless interfaces and human occupancy sensing. These interfaces use a scanning process, signal conditioning and data processing, all of which require power. Everyday devices like faucets, dispensers, door locks, remotes, cameras, wearables, and more which use IR sensors require frequent replacement of batteries causing great environmental waste and higher maintenance costs. The need exists for a lower-power sensor platform that will allow manufacturers of smart-home, smart building, and hygiene sensing products to improve user experience by prolonging the battery life of their products with low-power sensor technologies.
Technology Overview
Northeastern spinout, Zepsor Technologies, has created IR sensors which are “off-but-alert”. These sensors do not drain battery power to continuously monitor the environment but are still capable of detecting and discriminating the IR emitted by the human body. The sensors only use that tiny amount of detected thermal energy to close a micromechanical switch that triggers a response function from the device housing the sensor. The product to be developed is a near-zero power IR sensor module (~ 1µW) with an adjustable detection distance between 2-5 inches for a hand at room temperature. The detection time of the sensor will be less than a quarter of a second. The sensor module will include a zero-power Microelectromechanical (MEMS) IR sensor and a supporting Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) circuitry. These components will be sealed in one miniature package for plug-n-play integration with plumbing fixtures and hygiene products which require a presence detection function. The ultra-low power consumption of the sensor will extend the battery life of the devices by approximately 10x.

Extends battery life of devices by 10x
Lowers maintenance costs of devices
Decreases environmental impact
Provides better user-experience


Smart-home technologies
Smart buildings/ human occupancy sensing
Hygiene Products

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