Low-power 60 GHz radar chip for contactless health tracking in battery-powered devices

04 August 2020

imec low-power 60Ghz radar module_580x280
imec low-power 60Ghz radar module_580x280

This week at IEEE RFIC, research & innovation hub, imec presented a millimeter-wave motion detection radar at 60GHz, integrated in standard 28nm CMOS. Achieving 2cm range resolution, the ultra-sensitive radar is optimised for vital sign monitoring & gesture recognition. The compact radar chip consumes only 62mW, making the sensor integrable into small, battery-powered devices.

The RFIC symposium is the premier IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers) conference in the world focused on RFIC (radio frequency integrated circuits) technology. This year, it will be a virtual event, running online from 4-6 August 2020, with on-demand access throughout September 2020. imec (Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre) is a leading international R&D (research & development) and innovation hub working in the fields of nanoelectronics and digital technologies.

imec’s new radar design generates fast modulated waves, with a frequency increase of 12% in just 51.2 microseconds. A high modulation bandwidth (7.2 GHz) determines the sensor’s ultra-fine resolution, which makes it suitable for 3D sensing of finger motions, hand swiping and gestures. Experiments have demonstrated the sensor’s ability for multi-target detection, heartbeat detection at 5 metres, and accurate tracking of a pedestrian’s position and velocity. The radar operates in the frequency band around 60 GHz, a license-free ISM band that can be used for new IoT applications for industrial and medical purposes.

The system consumes only 62mW, which is significantly lower compared to state-of-the-art radars in this frequency range. A quick start-up time (1µs) supports aggressive duty-cycling for further power reduction. The 4.15 mm² transceiver chip is integrated in 28nm bulk CMOS technology, ensuring a low-cost solution at high volume production. A reference module design is available for the single-channel radar, including the antenna and achieving good spillover performance.

Being extremely compact and energy efficient, the 60 GHz radar system can be integrated in smart health devices, such as smartphones, health monitoring systems or wearables,” says Barend van Liempd, Program Manager for radar at imec. “The radar enables such devices to sense their surroundings, which will shape the way in which we control and use these devices. For instance, a phone with integrated radar on your bedside table can monitor sleep quality by contactless tracking of breathing rate and heart rate variability. The radar is as well suited for classification of other physical activities, which will open a new range of smart applications in the context of personalised health, baby monitoring, sports, elderly care, patient monitoring, nurse efficiency or worker safety.”

Our prototype shows that radar technology is becoming ready for the next big step: its use in battery-powered devices. Now, we are looking for companies that want to exploit these ideas to enter the market by realising new radar solutions,” says Kathleen Philips, Director for IoT at imec.

imec_Experiments demonstrate indoor capability for multi-target detection, heartbeat detection at 5 metre and accurate tracking of a pedestrian's position & velocity
imec_Experiments demonstrate indoor capability for multi-target detection, heartbeat detection at 5 metre and accurate tracking of a pedestrian's position & velocity

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's ECSEL Joint Undertaking under grant agreement n° 783190 - project PRYSTINE.

About imec

Imec is a world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. The combination of our widely acclaimed leadership in microchip technology and profound software and ICT expertise is what makes us unique. By leveraging our world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of partners across a multitude of industries, we create groundbreaking innovation in application domains such as healthcare, smart cities and mobility, logistics and manufacturing, energy and education .

As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and universities we bring together more than 4,000 brilliant minds from over 97 nationalities. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and has distributed R&D groups at a number of Flemish universities, in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, and offices in China, India and Japan. In 2018, imec's revenue (P&L) totaled 583 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec-int.com 

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