Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2018

Author's School

McKelvey School of Engineering

Author's Department

Computer Science & Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Self-powered and passive Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices (e.g. RFID tags, financial assets, wireless sensors and surface-mount devices) have been widely deployed in our everyday and industrial applications. While diverse functionalities have been implemented in passive systems, the lack of a reference clock limits the design space of such devices used for applications such as time-stamping sensing, recording and dynamic authentication. Self-powered time-keeping in passive systems has been challenging because they do not have access to continuous power sources. While energy transducers can harvest power from ambient environment, the intermittent power cannot support continuous operation for reference clocks. The thesis of this dissertation is to implement self-powered time-keeping devices on standard CMOS processes.

In this dissertation, a novel device that combines the physics of quantum tunneling and floating-gate (FG) structures is proposed for self-powered time-keeping in CMOS process. The proposed device is based on thermally assisted Fowler-Nordheim (FN) tunneling process across high-quality oxide layer to discharge the floating-gate node, therefore resulting in a time-dependent FG potential. The device was fully characterized in this dissertation, and it does not require external powering during runtime, making it feasible for passive devices and systems.

Dynamic signature based on the synchronization and desynchronization behavior of the FN timer is proposed for authentication of IoT devices. The self-compensating physics ensure that when distributed timers are subjected to identical environment variances that are common-mode noise, they can maintain synchronization with respect to each other. On the contrary, different environment conditions will desynchronize the timers creating unique signatures. The signatures could be used to differentiate between products that belong to different supply-chains or products that were subjected to malicious tampering. SecureID type dynamic authentication protocols based on the signature generated by the FN timers are proposed and they are proven to be robust to most attacks. The protocols are further analyzed to be lightweight enough for passive devices whose computational sources are limited.

The device could also be applied for self-powered sensing of time-of-occurrence. The prototype was verified by integrating the device with a self-powered mechanical sensor to sense and record time-of-occurrence of mechanical events. The system-on-chip design uses the timer output to modulate a linear injector to stamp the time information into the sensing results. Time-of-occurrence can be reconstructed by training the mathematical model and then applying that to the test data. The design was verified to have a high reconstruction accuracy.


English (en)


Shantanu Chakrabartty

Committee Members

Roger Chamberlain, Raj Jain, Xuan Zhang, Chuan Wang,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/1sk3-6y13