Startup Behind Battery-less Sensors Gets a Financial Jolt

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A joint startup cofounded by two professors, one from the University of Michigan, has completed its first round of funding, bringing their idea of creating and selling ultra-low power sensors, which do not need batteries and can operate on heat, vibrations, and sunlight, one step closer to reality.

“This funding allows us to expand our leadership and technical teams, begin development of our first wireless system-on-a-chip, and ultimately deliver chips to our customers,” says David Wentzloff, co-founder of PsiKick and an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science. “This will enable our customers to develop ‘Internet of Things’ devices that last much longer on batteries or operate entirely from harvested energy.”

PsiKick’s wireless systems-on-a-chip eliminate the need for a battery, instead using harvested energy from sources such as vibration, thermal gradients, solar, or radio frequency. Wentzloff has partnered with Benton Calhoun, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Virginia, and company CEO Brendan Richardson

An example of a possible application for the sensor was demonstrated when the startup first launched in 2012 in the form of a device — powered by body heat — that conducted electrocardiogram, or EKG, monitoring and detection of atrial fibrillation.

“Imagine that technology being integrated into a Band-Aid-like device for physiological monitoring at home or integrated into a performance shirt for athletes,” Wentzloff says. “As soon as you stick it on or put the shirt on, the device powers up from your body heat and starts recording and wirelessly talking to your phone. And since there’s no battery, it can be disposable, or in the case of a shirt, washed and dried — neither of which is good for batteries.”

The financing was led by Maryland-based New Enterprise Associates, along with U-M venture fund MINTS and Osage University Partners in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

In other venture news, Drive Capital, a Columbus, Ohio-based venture capital firm that invests in technology, health care, and consumer companies in the Midwest, will stop at the University of Michigan on April 16 as part of its RV campus tour.

“The great universities of the Midwest have become talent and innovation factories,” says Robert Hatta, talent partner for Drive Capital. “Through the tour, we’ll be able to offer valuable insight into what it’s like to work at a startup. Plus, students can ‘pitch’ their ideas and get feedback from successful venture capitalists. We’re excited to learn what the next generation is working on.”

The Ann Arbor stop is scheduled to take place from noon to 4 p.m. at the Creators Co-op, 631 Oxford Rd.

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