ECG readout chip keeps consistent beat for wearable devices

Imec and Holst Centre have unveiled a time-based electro-cardiogram (ECG) readout chip for wearable applications. The 0.6V ECG readout chip is based on time-domain circuit techniques. It maintains consistent beat detection capabilities, even under movement (around 40mV pp), and paves the way, says the research centre, for a low cost, low power multi-sensor SoC for wearable medical applications. Todayís digital ICs and memory ICs benefit from technology scaling in terms of power and area, yet this has not been achieved for analogue readout electronics. Current analogue circuit techniques do not result in a significantly reduced area in scaled technologies. In addition, the reduced supply voltage (VDD) with scaled technologies, presents challenges in combining a large dynamic range with small size and low power consumption.

This ECG readout chip is only 0.015mm≤ implemented in TSMC 40nm CMOS. It can handle up to 300mV DC-electrode offset and consumes only 3.3µW from a 0.6V supply. By acquiring an ECG signal from the noise-stress database, the system does not saturate and is able to maintain a consistent beat detection capability even in presence of vigorous motion (around 40mVpp). This was achieved by implementing a time-domain-based readout architecture, which avoids the need for area intensive analogue circuitry, such as high-gain amplifiers and passives. The chipís performance is comparable with current ëstate-of-the-artí implementations, says the research centre, at a fraction of the area.

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