Energy harvesting has been widely investigated as a promising method of providing power for ultra-low-power applications. Such energy sources include solar energy, radiofrequency (RF) radiation, piezoelectricity, thermal gradients, etc. However, the power supplied by these sources is highly unreliable and dependent upon ambient environment factors. Hence, it is necessary to develop specialized systems that are tolerant to this power variation, and also capable of making forward progress on the computation tasks. The simulation platform in this paper is calibrated using measured results from a fabricated nonvolatile processor and used to explore the design space for a nonvolatile processor with different architectures, different input power sources, and policies for maximizing forward progress.
Energy harvesting is gaining more and more attentions due to its characteristics of ultra-long operation time without maintenance. However, frequent unpredictable power failures from energy harvesters bring performance and reliability challenges to traditional processors. Nonvolatile processors are promising to solve such a problem due to their advantage of zero leakage and efficient backup and restore operations. To optimize the nonvolatile processor design, this paper proposes new metrics of nonvolatile processors to consider energy harvesting factors for the first time. Furthermore, we explore the nonvolatile processor design from circuit to system level. A prototype of energy harvesting nonvolatile processor is set up and experimental results show that the proposed performance metric meets the measured results by less than 6.27% average errors. Finally, the energy consumption of nonvolatile processor is analyzed under different benchmarks.
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