Radio-frequency (RF)-powered energy harvesting systems have offered new perspectives in various scientific and clinical applications such as health monitoring, bio-signal acquisition, and battery-less data-transceivers. In such applications, an RF rectifier with high sensitivity, high power conversion efficiency (PCE) is critical to enable the utilization of the ambient RF signal power. In this paper, we explore the high PCE advantage of the steep-slope III-V heterojunction tunnel field-effect transistor (HTFET) RF rectifiers over the Si FinFET baseline design for RF-powered battery-less systems. We investigate the device characteristics of HTFETs to improve the sensitivity and PCE of the RF rectifiers. Different topologies including the two-transistor (2-T) and four-transistor (4-T) complementary-HTFET designs, and the n-type HTFET-only designs are evaluated with design parameter optimizations to achieve high PCE and high sensitivity. The performance evaluation of the optimized 4-T cross-coupled HTFET rectifier has shown an over 50\% PCE with an RF input power ranging from-40 dBm to-25 dBm, which significantly extends the RF input power range compared to the baseline Si FinFET design. A maximum PCE of 84\% and 85\% has been achieved in the proposed 4-T N-HTFET-only rectifier at-33.7 dBm input power and the 4-T cross-coupled HTFET rectifier at-34.5 dBm input power, respectively. The capability of obtaining a high PCE at a low RF input power range reveals the superiority of the HTFET RF rectifiers for battery-less energy harvesting applications. © 2014 IEEE.