Multifunctional Integrated Circuits & Systems Research | ECE | Virginia Tech

Research Areas

ECE TEAMS conduct research in the area of multifunctional Integrated Circuits (ICs) and systems, specifically analog, mixed-signal, and RF IC designs, antenna systems, and RF interfaces in advanced silicon and related emerging technologies, such as GaN, 3D and MEMS. Target applications for such circuits and systems include: wireless / wireline communications; millimeter-wave and terahertz radios, radars and imaging sensors; wireless sensor networks and RFID; energy harvesting and wireless power transfer; and beyond.

Current Research

Thermophotovoltaic Device

Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cells are used to generate electricity from thermal sources, such as internal combustion engines, small nuclear sources, and portable fuel-based sources. Because these systems can provide power where traditional sources do not exist, they could be valuable for space and military applications.

Microwave & Millimeter-wave Communications

We are building highly integrated and cost-effective phased arrays and radar sensors at microwave and millimeter frequencies (> 20 GHz) to enhance industrial safety. This allows us to exploit the high frequency for high-resolution, multifunctional RF sensors.

We have developed highly power-efficient integrated circuit power amplifiers at frequency ranges from 20 to 40 GHz, mainly for next-generation high-speed wireless communications. The power amplifiers are adopted with novel harmonic impedance modulators that change the power amplifier's load impedance more dynamically, depending on the harmonic frequencies, enabling us to shape highly efficient voltage and current waveforms at the power amplifier'ss output. This has resulted in a record-breaking 40 to 45 percent power-added efficiency at the microwave and millimeter-wave frequency range.

Low Power Devices

By creating power management Integrated Circuits (ICs), we can develop devices for applications ranging from energy harvesting to down-hole communications for oil and gas exploration.

We have created multiple ICs for harvesting energy from vibration and body heat. For one project, harvesting energy from vibrations, we track the maximum power point to extract the most energy from piezoelectric cantilevers, which might be used on a bridge to harvest energy from passing vehicles.

We are also working on high-temperature systems for down-hole communications, and have prototyped a receiver and transmitter with GaN devices that can reliably operate at 230 C.