A complete computer system in 1 cubic millimeter. Onboard is a low power microcontroller, memory, battery, wireless radio, solar cell, and a pressure sensor. This system is meant to be an implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients. I'm sure a patient would feel this think, despite the size. Think about getting a splinter. Created by three professors from the University of Michigan, Dennis Sylvester, David Blaauw, and David Wentzloff, the project was presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco.
"Our work is unique in the sense that we're thinking about complete systems in which all the components are low-power and fit on the chip. We can collect data, store it and transmit it. The applications for systems of this size are endless," Sylvester said.
Blaauw said, "When you get smaller than hand-held devices, you turn to these monitoring devices." He continued, "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."
Wentzloff, speaking of the onboard antenna, "This is the first integrated antenna that also serves as its own reference. The radio on our chip doesn't need external tuning. Once you deploy a network of these, they'll automatically align at the same frequency."
The system uses an aggressive sleep mode scheme. It wakes every 15 minutes to take readings at about 5.3 nanowatts. The battery charges in 1.5 hours of sunlight, or 10 hours of indoor lighting. But if it is implanted, how can this happen? It can store up to a week's worth of data.
See more about the team at their personal sites.
David Wentzloff: http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~wentzlof/
David Blaauw: http://blaauw.eecs.umich.edu/people.php?u=professor
Dennis Sylvester: http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~dennis/