This past weekend at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, researchers from the University of Michigan presented what is believed to be the world’s first complete millimeter-scale computer.
Measuring in at just over 1 cubic millimeter, the computer features an ultra low-power microprocessor, pressure sensor, memory, thin-film battery, a solar cell and a wireless radio with an antenna that can communicate with an external reader. In all, it consumes only 5.3 nanowatts, requires 1.5 hours of sunlight to charge the battery, and can store up to a week’s worth of information.
This specific computer will be targeted towards glaucoma patients. The computer, a pressure monitor, is designed to be implanted in the eye and can continuously track the progress of glaucoma.
According to University of Michigan researchers, Bell’s Law, a corollary to Moore’s Law, presents them the challenge of developing a new line of millimeter-scale computing systems to be the future of medical sensors and monitoring devices.
“When you get smaller than hand-held devices, you turn to these monitoring devices,” Blaauw [professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at U-M] said. “The next big challenge is to achieve millimeter-scale systems, which have a host of new applications for monitoring our bodies, our environment and our buildings. Because they’re so small, you could manufacture hundreds of thousands on one wafer. There could be 10s to 100s of them per person and it’s this per capita increase that fuels the semiconductor industry’s growth.”
From the University of Michigan: Toward computers that fit on a pen tip: New technologies usher in the millimeter-scale computing era…