College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ECpE’s Duwe receives 2022 NSF CAREER Award

Henry Duwe, smiling, stands in front of a bright background.
Henry Duwe, smiling, stands in front of a bright background.
Henry Duwe, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering received a 2022 NSF CAREER Award.

Henry Duwe, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering (EcpE), has been selected for a 2022 National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award for his project “Toward Dependable Intelligent Computing on Batteryless Intermittent Devices.”

CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious awards given to early-career faculty. The support aims to build a firm foundation for leadership in integrating research and education. Duwe will receive over $500,000 to develop and execute his project over the next five years.

“The CAREER award is an investment in my early career and gives me the opportunity to expand my research and educational mission within my department and institution,” Duwe said. “So that is really exciting, and I am honored to be selected.”

Powering remote sensors

Living in the digital world, intelligent sensors surround us. They are inside the usual suspects, like smartphones, appliances and cars, but they are increasingly showing up in unexpected places and objects.

Many sensors and their connected computing devices are constantly connected to a reliable power source like wall outlets. But what happens when sensor nodes are installed in difficult to access areas far away from power sources? This requires those sensors to use batteries right now, which can be costly, both financially and environmentally. Duwe and his group aims to change that.

Powering without batteries

“When you start trying to install intelligent sensor nodes throughout the environment, like transportation infrastructure, agricultural fields, factories, in outer space and even in water under ice caps, you run into the problem of how to power these nodes, and batteries can come with significant costs and limited lifetimes,” Duwe said. “My project targets the development of intelligent multi-node sensor systems that can be powered solely from energy harvesting without battery storage.”

Radio frequency harvesting, vibrational energy harvesting, solar and thermoelectric energy harvesting are all in Duwe’s toolbox. While the amount of power harvested would be small, the sensor would be able to run and harvest for decades.

Powering the future

A sensor that does not need a battery could positively impact several industries as well as the environment. From growing crops to building bridges, such sensors could save time, money and lessen the impact of humans on our environment.

“We are thrilled to see Henry Duwe receiving the NSF CAREER award for his futuristic work on batteryless computing in edge devices,” said Ashfaq Khokar, Palmer Department Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “NSF CAREER Awards are extremely competitive and reflect very highly on the quality of Duwe’s work.”

Duwe’s CAREER project will also create new hands-on learning opportunities for Cyclone Engineering students. He plans to integrate building custom intelligent sensor nodes for real-world applications into the classes he teaches.