Four-PAM Modulation of Ambient FM Backscattering for Spectrally Efficient Low-Power Applications

Spyridon Nektarios Daskalakis, Ricardo Correia, George Goussetis, Manos M. Tentzeris, Nuno Borges Carvalho, Apostolos Georgiadis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
369 Downloads (Pure)


Ambient backscatter uses radio frequency signals available in the environment (e.g., radio broadcasting, television, or mobile telephony) to transmit data effectively leading to significant energy and cost efficiency increase. This paper presents a novel wireless tag, which for the first time utilizes 4-pulse amplitude modulation technique to modulate the ambient backscattered FM signals in order to send data to a nearby low-cost software defined radio reader. The tag is based on an RF front-end that uses a single transistor controlled by an ultralow-power microcontroller. The microcontroller includes an analog-to-digital converter for sensing and a digital-to-analog converter for RF front-end control. A proof-of-concept prototype is demonstrated in an indoor environment with the low bit rate of 345 b/s and power consumption 27 μW. It operated using a real FM station at 34.5 km away and the tag-to-reader distance was tested at 1 m. The value of energy spent in this modulator was 78.2 nJ/bit at 345 b/s and 27.7 nJ/bit at 10.2 kb/s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5909-5921
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques
Issue number12
Early online date14 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Ambient backscattering
  • Backscatter
  • backscatter communication
  • FM modulation
  • Frequency modulation
  • Internet-of-Things (IoT)
  • pulse amplitude modulation (PAM)
  • Radio frequency
  • radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors
  • Receivers
  • Sensors
  • software-defined radio (SDR).
  • Transistors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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