Super Micro Embedded Computers

Researchers at the University of Michigan may be bringing us the future today.  The paper, “A Cubic Millimeter Energy-Autonomous Wireless Intraocular Pressure Monitor” describes a device for monitoring the pressure in the eyeball for glaucoma patients.  This device is just epic cool.

 

first complete millimeter-scale computing system

 

The device (pictured above) is one square millimeter and less thick.  That’s the ‘one’ on a penny.  Let’s review what the device does and its features:

  1. Monitors eyeball pressure every 15 minutes.
  2. Can retain a week’s worth of data
  3. Is implanted in the eye
  4. Uses light for recharging a 1 micro-amp lithium battery (10 hours in room light, 1.5 hours in sunlight)  (yes, it’s implanted in the eye, so the device will be exposed to light.
  5. Transmits the data via internal wireless network antenna

All in less than 1.5 cubic millimeters.  This is just awe-inspiring.  The University anticipates that the device will be operational in a year or so.

The system almost completely shuts down for most of its time using less than 3.65 nanowatts (that 0.0000000365 watts).  Full power radio and logic mode is 5.3 nanowatts.  There’s some additional information in the paper that is discussing femtowatts of power.

There’s not a whole lot more to say about this specific device.  But the range of possibilities that this device opens up is awe-inspiring.  When combined with lab-on-a-chip technology, anything could be done.

Nearly continuous blood glucose monitoring.  Internal blood pressure monitoring.  Anything that involves measurement of physical constraints (pH, pressure, temperature, etc.) could be done with these devices. With devices this small that use that little power,  just the pulsing of a blood vessel could provide the power something like this needs.

We’re getting near to the point where our bodies will now be as networked as our offices.  I will say that the described system does not use something TCP/IP, so you don’t have to worry about computer viruses and the transmission distance is tiny, so the receiving device needs to be held very close to the eye.

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