mmWave motion detection radar chip for health tracking

5th August 2020
Alex Lynn

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

Imec’s new radar design generates fast modulated waves, with a frequency increase of 12% in just 51.2 microseconds. A high modulation bandwidth (7.2GHz) 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 five metre and accurate tracking of a pedestrian’s position and velocity. The radar operates in the frequency band around 60GHz, a license-free ISM band that can be used for new IoT applications for industrial and medical purposes.

The system only consumes 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,” said Barend van Liempd, program manager 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 personalized 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: the use in battery-powered devices. Now, we are looking for companies that want to exploit these ideas to enter the market by realizing new radar solutions,” said Kathleen Philips, Director IoT at imec.

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

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