The objectives of the MIT-INL collaboration are to develop autonomous microsystems to integrate sensing, signal conditioning and processing, communications/data-archiving and energy sources/storage/processing in a compact form factor. The goal is operate systems using energy scavenged from the environment. Such systems can address a range of applications—from environmental sensing and food control, to smart packaging and medical devices. The materials and device technologies developed for these purposes will also create a foundation for a new generation of low-power, integrated circuit technology.

The MIT-INL Research Collaboration Agreement has five research "Themes":

Self-powered systems for autonomous sensing for biomedical and other applications

Researchers are developing technologies that would enable autonomous sensing for biomedical and other applications. Energy for autonomous sensors can be harvested from environmentally available vibration and processed via intelligent, low-power control circuitry. Working closely with researchers who are creating energy storage devices to buffer energy from the scavenging device, they will develop systems capable of
collecting information for either continuous broadcasting or periodic read out.

Example of application: A self-powered sensor system that can be used for remote wireless sensing (i.e., self-powered accelerometer). Packaging will be explored for integrating MEMS and CMOS devices (fabricated in a standard off-the-shelf technology) together.

Principal MIT Investigators: Sang-Gook Kim, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Martin A. Schmidt, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Associate Provost; Anantha Chandrakasan, Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering, Director, Microsystems Technology Laboratories


Graphene-based microsystems for environment and food-quality monitoring

Graphene is revolutionizing electronics and solid state physics and is an ideal candidate for such advanced sensors. In this project, we will use graphene electronics to develop a new generation of sensing microsystems with unprecedented sensitivity. The growth of graphene wafers by chemical-vapor deposition will be optimized, and the technology and surface functionalization schemes required by graphene sensors will be developed. Finally, sensors based on graphene transistors, surface acoustic waves, and optical absorption devices will be demonstrated and integrated in a microsystem. Si and graphene control electronics will improve the specificity even further.

Example of application: Analysis of the phenolic constituents in red wine or heavy metals in water.

Principal MIT Investigators: Tomás Palacios, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering; Pablo Jarillo-Herrero; Jing Kong, ITT Career Development Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering


Complex guided molecular self-assembly for devices

Self-assembly is an inexpensive patterning method for realizing nanoscale structures over large areas. In particular, self-assembly of functional nanoparticles, biomolecules, or macromolecules can create complex nanostructured devices with precisely tailored chemical or biological responses. By combining self-assembly with nanolithographically defined template structures, that serve to control and guide the self-assembly process, complex structures for applications in, for example, biomedical or environmental sensing, can be realized.

Example of application: Nanoscale patterning and lithography, biosensing and functional biomaterials.

Principal MIT Investigator: Karl K. Berggren, Emanuel E. Landsman Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Professor of Electrical Engineering

Nanomaterial arrays for energy storage and sensing

The high surface-to-volume ratios of nanoscale material structures makes them ideal for sensing and energy storage applications.  For optimized functionality in these applications, nanostructures should be ordered and must be electrically interconnected.  We are developing a broad range of methods for creation of ordered arrays of nanodots and nanowires with electrical connectivity and electronic functionality. These are being incorporated in both sensing and energy storage/buffering devices that can be integrated into low-power autonomous systems.

Principal MIT Investigator: Carl Thompson, Stavros Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering