Toward Computers That Fit on a Pen Tip: New Technologies Usher in the Millimeter-Scale Computing Era.

University of Michigan News Service (02/22/11) Nicole Casal Moor

University of Michigan researchers, led by professors Dennis Sylvester, David Blaauw, and David Wentzloff, recently presented papers at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in which they discussed a prototype implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients and a compact radio that does not need to be tuned to find a signal and could be used to track pollution, monitor structural integrity, or perform surveillance. The research utilizes millimeter-scale technologies to create devices for use in ubiquitous computing environments. The glaucoma eye pressure monitor is slightly larger than one cubic millimeter and contains an ultra-low-power microprocessor, a pressure sensor, memory, a thin-film battery, a solar cell, and a wireless radio transmitter that sends data to an external reading device. “This is the first true millimeter-scale complete computing system,” Sylvester says. Wentzloff and doctoral student Kuo-Ken Huang have developed a tiny radio with an on-chip antenna that can keep its own time and serve as its own reference, which enables the system to precisely communicate with other devices. “By designing a circuit to monitor the signal on the antenna and measure how close it is to the antenna’s natural resonance, we can lock the transmitted signal to the antenna’s resonant frequency,” Wentzloff says.

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