Kristofer Pister

Professor of Electrical Engineering
Keywords: mechanics, controls, materials
Research Areas: electrical engineering, synthetic insects, smart dust, robotics

Research Description:
My two most entertaining research projects right now are synthetic insects and smart dust. The Smart Dust project is aimed at putting a complete sensing/communication platform inside a cubic millimeter, including power supply, analog and digital electronics, etc. Thousands or millions of these dust motes will all communicate simultaneously. Applications are all over the map. Instrumented hospital rooms so that your syringe knows if you’re the right patient or not, instrumented bodies so that we can all participate in 3D virtual ballet, instrumented atmosphere so we can predict weather (did you see Twister? those sensors were way, WAY bigger than they need to be).

The synthetic insect project is basically smart dust with legs. We’re shooting for millimeter scale legged locotion, or possibly flying. We’re working with people in biology who study insect walking, running, and flight (they’ve got little force platforms and virtual reality setups for bugs – very cool). In my vision of the project, in a few years you’ll be able to use a web-based cut-and-paste design tool to select legs, motors, sensors, and electronics to design your own custom insects, download control algorithms to them, and turn them loose in a 3D interactive simulation to socialize or do battle with other virtual bugs. Once you get the design you like, you press the button, it gets submitted for fabrication, and two months later you’ve got the actual device (more likely hundreds of them) running around on your desk.

Prof. Ron Fearing is leading another synthetic insect project in which we’re trying to make a micro flying insect.

Somewhere in between smart dust and synthetic insects is the micro rocket project, where we’re trying to integrate solid fuel rockets into silicon chips.

Providing simulation support for as much of the above work as possible is the SUGAR project, to do fast, accurate CAD for MEMS.

Selected Publications:

  • B. W. Cook, A. D. Berny, A. Molnar, S. Lanzisera, and K. Pister, “An ultra-low-power 2.4GHz RF transceiver for wireless sensor networks in 130nm CMOS with 400mV supply and an integrated passive RX front-end,” in 2006 IEEE Intl. Solid-State Circuits Conf. Digest of Technical Papers, L. C. Fujino, Ed., Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, 2006, pp. 1460-1469.
  • B. S. Leibowitz, B. Boser, and K. Pister, “A 256-element CMOS imaging receiver for free-space optical communication,” IEEE J. Solid-State Circuits, vol. 40, no. 9, pp. 1948-1956, Sep. 2005.
  • M. D. Scott, B. Boser, and K. Pister, “An ultralow-energy ADC for Smart Dust,” IEEE J. Solid- State Circuits, vol. 38, no. 7, pp. 1123-1129, July 2003.
  • M. Last, B. S. Leibowitz, B. Cagdaser, A. Jog, L. Zhou, B. Boser, and K. Pister, “Toward a wireless optical communication link between two small unmanned aerial vehicles,” in Proc. 2003 IEEE Intl. Symp. on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS 2003), Vol. 3, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press, 2003, pp. 930-933.
  • S. Hollar, A. Flynn, S. Bellew, and K. Pister, “Solar powered 10 mg silicon robot,” in Proc. IEEE 16th Annual Intl. Conf. on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, 2003, pp. 706-711.
  • B. A. Warneke, M. D. Scott, B. S. Leibowitz, L. Zhou, C. L. Bellew, J. A. Chediak, J. M. Kahn, B. Boser, and K. Pister, “An autonomous 16 mm3 solar-powered node for distributed wireless sensor networks,” in Proc. 2002 1st Intl. Conf. on Sensors, Vol. 2, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press, 2002, pp. 1510-1515.
  • J. V. Clark, D. Bindel, W. Kao, E. Zhu, A. Kuo, N. Zhou, J. Nie, J. Demmel, Z. Bai, S. Govindjee, K. Pister, M. Gu, and A. Agogino, “Addressing the needs of complex MEMS design,” in Proc. 15th IEEE Intl. Conf. on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press, 2002, pp. 204-209.
  • B. S. Leibowitz, B. Boser, and K. Pister, “CMOS “smart pixel” for free-space optical communication,” in Proc. SPIE: Sensors and Camera Systems for Scientific, Industrial, and Digital Photography Applications II, M. M. Blouke, J. Canosa, and N. Sampat, Eds., Vol. 4306, Bellingham, WA: SPIE, 2001, pp. 308-318.
  • L. Doherty, B. A. Warneke, B. Boser, and K. Pister, “Energy and performance considerations for smart dust,” Intl. J. Parallel and Distributed Systems & Networks, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 121-133, March 2001.
  • B. Warneke, M. Last, B. Liebowitz, and K. Pister, “Smart Dust: Communicating with a cubic- millimeter computer,” Computer, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 44-51, Jan. 2001.
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