Computer systems are critical to today’s information infrastructure, providing efficient and convenient means for storing, accessing and processing the world’s data, and leading to dramatic advances in commerce, technology and entertainment. Furthermore, computers are deeply embedded in nearly all scientific endeavors, helping to enable breakthroughs in fields as diverse as astronomy, genomics, sustainability and pharmaceutical drug development. Computer systems consist of software (applications, runtime systems, compilers, operating systems) and hardware (devices, circuits, logic, processors, memory, and storage), which together enable the engineering of massively complex systems, facilitated in large part through electronic design automation. Research in this area involves not just the design of these software and hardware components, but also computer architecture, which defines the interface between hardware and software.
Associate Professor Umit Ogras, shown here, is fitting the prototype of a wearable, joint movement-based, energy harvesting system in one of our computer systems and architecture labs. The device is integrated into a knee sleeve and incorporates flexible PV-cells and piezoelectric transducers to convert light and motion energy into usable electrical energy.
We can use this device to characterize the energy harvesting potential of a wearable system within a day. Given this characterization, we are able to design systems that can operate in a self-sustainable manner, which do not require any user intervention for recharging the batteries or replacing them.