Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering - (Ph.D.)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Osvaldo Simeone

Second Advisor

Umberto Spagnolini

Third Advisor

Mary Ann Ingram

Fourth Advisor

Yeheskel Bar-Ness

Fifth Advisor

Alexander Haimovich


Recent advances in low-power electronics and energy-harvesting (EH) technologies enable the design of self-sustained devices that collect part, or all, of the needed energy from the environment. Several systems can take advantage of EH, ranging from portable devices to wireless sensor networks (WSNs). While conventional design for battery-powered systems is mainly concerned with the battery lifetime, a key advantage of EH is that it enables potential perpetual operation of the devices, without requiring maintenance for battery substitutions. However, the inherent unpredictability regarding the amount of energy that can be collected from the environment might cause temporary energy shortages, which might prevent the devices to operate regularly. This uncertainty calls for the development of energy management techniques that are tailored to the EH dynamics.

While most previous work on EH-capable systems has focused on energy management for single devices, the main contributions of this dissertation is the analysis and design of medium access control (MAC) protocols for WSNs operated by EH-capable devices. In particular, the dissertation first considers random access MAC protocols for single-hop EH networks, in which a fusion center collects data from a set of nodes distributed in its surrounding. MAC protocols commonly used in WSNs, such as time division multiple access (TDMA), framed-ALOHA (FA) and dynamic-FA (DFA) are investigated in the presence of EH-capable devices. A new ALOHA-based MAC protocol tailored to EH-networks, referred to as energy group-DFA (EG-DFA), is then proposed. In EG-DFA nodes with similar energy availability are grouped together and access the channel independently from other groups. It is shown that EG-DFA significantly outperforms the DFA protocol. Centralized scheduling-based MAC protocols for single-hop EH-networks with communication resource constraints are considered next. Two main scenarios are addressed, namely: i) nodes exclusively powered via EH; ii) nodes powered by a hybrid energy storage system, which is composed by a non-rechargeable battery and a capacitor charged via EH. For the former case the goal is the maximization of the network throughput, while in the latter the aim is maximizing the lifetime of the non-rechargeable batteries. For both scenarios optimal scheduling policies are derived by assuming different levels of information available at the fusion center about the energy availability at the nodes. When optimal policies are not derived explicitly, suboptimal policies are proposed and compared with performance upper bounds.

Energy management policies for single devices have been investigated as well by focusing on radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, when the latter are operated by enhanced RFID tags with energy harvesting capabilities.