A new implant developed by engineers from Columbia University is the smallest single-chip system ever created. The chip, only visible under a microscope, can be implanted with a hypodermic needle to measure temperature inside the body (and more features could be added too). According to the creators of the implant, the chip may use radio frequency modules to transmit and receive information for wireless powering and communication:
This combines with an onboard low-power temperature sensor to turn the chip into a probe for real-time temperature sensing, enabling it to monitor body temperature and also fluctuations in temperature driven by the therapeutic application of ultrasound. The implant's capabilities were demonstrated in live mice where it was used for ultrasound neurostimulation, and up to seven were implanted into the mice at a time via intramuscular injection with a syringe.
The scientists imagine these types of chips being implanted into the human body, and then wirelessly communicating information on what they measure via ultrasound. In its current form this is limited to body temperature, but other possibilities include blood pressure, glucose levels and respiratory function.
"We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make," says the study's leader Ken Shepard. "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."
Image via New Atlas