A bipolar ±13 mV self-starting and 85% peak efficiency DC/DC converter for thermoelectric energy harvesting

Harald Dillersberger, Bernd Deutschmann*, Douglas Tham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a novel converter for boosting the low-voltage output of thermoelectric energy harvesters to power standard electronic circuits. The converter can start up from a fully depleted state of the system off a bipolar ±13 mV input and can boost it to output voltages of up to 5 V. The converter comprises two transformers, one for each polarity that are multiplexed between an oscillator (used during startup) and a flyback converter (used during normal operation). To eliminate leakage currents in the input stage, the unused converter is completely turned off at startup and both converters are automatically shut off if the input power is found to be too low. Measurement results of the converter designed in a 180 nm CMOS process demonstrate a peak end-to-end conversion efficiency of 85% and nearly perfect impedance matching over the full input voltage range. This is the first time that a converter for ultra-low bipolar input voltages achieves the same performance as a unipolar converter
Original languageEnglish
Article number5501
Number of pages11
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2020


  • Bipolar input
  • DC/DC converter
  • Energy harvesting
  • Flyback converter
  • Impedance matching
  • Meissner oscillator
  • Thermoelectric generator
  • Transformer reuse
  • Ultra-low voltage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Optimization
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

Fields of Expertise

  • Information, Communication & Computing


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