Nele Reynders joins Hammer-IMS as senior R&D engineer. We interviewed Nele to give her a proper introduction.
- Nele, you obtained a PhD degree from KU Leuven. As engineers are good in simplifying complex things, can you give an easy-to-understand introduction to this?
The subject of my PhD in micro-electronics was “Ultra-low-voltage design of energy-efficient digital circuits”. This probably sounds quite abstract, but the focus basically was on how to drastically reduce the energy consumption of chips.
Why? To increase the battery lifetime of portable electronic devices. A mobile phone is an obvious example of such a portable application, but I was focusing on less high-speed applications with even more critical energy requirements. Especially medical applications come into play here, for example biomedical sensors or hearing aids could benefit greatly from improvements in energy consumption and therefore larger stand-alone times.
How did I achieve this energy gain? By extremely reducing the supply voltage of these circuits. This poses a lot of challenges since these circuits are very sensitive to variations, but if you are able to provide answers to these challenges, it is possible to produce chips that are much more energy-efficient. Therefore, in my PhD, I designed 4 prototypes to demonstrate this new design methodology.
- Nele, you are highly specialized in digital chip technology. What kind of opportunities do you see for the products and markets of Hammer-IMS related to these skills of yours?
We can reduce the power consumption of the solutions that Hammer-IMS provides, as well as decrease their size and increase their intelligence. Now, we are focusing on production line equipment, but in the future, low-cost millimeter wave handheld measurement devices can provide interesting possibilities for in-the-field non-destructive testing. Hammer-IMS would certainly need experienced digital chip design to produce such devices.
- What is, according to you, the biggest evolution in electronics that Hammer-IMS's products could benefit from in the coming 10 years?
The tendency of commercial applications to go to higher frequencies, even up to the 100GHz range and higher. Up till recently, millimeter wave electronics were limited to academic experiments in lab environments, but now there are many promising industrial applications, such as the sensing equipment of Hammer-IMS. And this is just the beginning of the commercial acceptance, so these are very interesting times. I think Hammer-IMS really has the advantage of working on the right topic at the right time.
- What is your number-one contribution to Hammer-IMS that your colleagues would highly appreciate?
On the short term, I think that I can bring immediate added value by being dropped as an 'outsider' into a start-up, because I look at things from a different, fresh perspective. Already much effort has been put into developing the product and the company itself before I arrived, and this new perspective can further improve both of them.
On the longer term, I have a broad range of technical interests which I combine with a keen eye for detail, and I certainly expect that combination to contribute to the success of the company.
- Engineers are sometimes referred to as 'geeks'. We both are engineers, and for sure, we all have had these small-scale projects we typically do not want to talk about on a first date. Tell us about your guilty engineering pleasures?
I secretly like inventing new features for the domotics (home automation) in our house. Recently, I also took an interest in the design of furniture, e.g. I designed and constructed a cabinet in wood, which I found very fulfilling.
- Allow me to ask you a question about your spare time. Recently, you have been performing a lot of construction work in your house. Is there a particular skill that you acquired doing that might be useful for Hammer-IMS?
That's right, we are renovating our house and doing most of the work ourselves. Besides the fact that I learned many new hands-on skills, planning is a key factor in renovation. You really want to efficiently plan construction work in the most optimal order so that you never have to redo anything because some other work will partly destroy what you did earlier. You want to optimize the time you have to get the fastest improvement and, most importantly, the most rewarding result. I'm sure those planning skills I acquired can be of very good use for Hammer-IMS.