Researchers Build Tiny Wireless, Injectable Chips, Visible Only Under a Microscope
Implantable miniaturized medical devices that wirelessly transmit data “are transforming healthcare and improving the quality of life for millions of people,” writes Columbia University, noting the devices are “widely used to monitor and map biological signals, to support and enhance physiological functions, and to treat diseases.”

Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger shares the university’s newest announcement:

These devices could be used to monitor physiological conditions, such as temperature, blood pressure, glucose, and respiration for both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. To date, conventional implanted electronics have been highly volume-inefficient — they generally require multiple chips, packaging, wires, and external transducers, and batteries are often needed for energy storage… Researchers at Columbia Engineering report that they have built what they say is the world’s smallest single-chip system, consuming a total volume of less than 0.1 mm cubed. The system is as small as a dust mite and visible only under a microscope…

“We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make,” said the study’s leader Ken Shepard, Lau Family professor of electrical engineering and professor of biomedical engineering. “This is a new idea of ‘chip as system’ — this is a chip that alone, with nothing else, is a complete functioning electronic system. This should be revolutionary for developing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices that can sense different things, be used in clinical applications, and eventually approved for human use….”

The chip, which is the entire implantable/injectable mote with no additional packaging, was fabricated at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company with additional process modifications performed in the Columbia Nano Initiative cleanroom and the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) Nanofabrication Facility. Shepard commented, “This is a nice example of ‘more than Moore’ technology—we introduced new materials onto standard complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor to provide new function. In this case, we added piezoelectric materials directly onto the integrated circuit to transducer acoustic energy to electrical energy….” The team’s goal is to develop chips that can be injected into the body with a hypodermic needle and then communicate back out of the body using ultrasound, providing information about something they measure locally.

The current devices measure body temperature, but there are many more possibilities the team is working on.

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