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Tiny sensors fit 30,000 to a penny, transmit data from living tissue

Date:
April 22, 2020
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Researchers who build nanoscale electronics have developed microsensors so tiny, they can fit 30,000 on one side of a penny. They are equipped with an integrated circuit, solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that enable them to harness light for power and communication. And because they are mass fabricated, with up to 1 million sitting on an 8-inch wafer, each device costs a fraction of that same penny.
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Cornell University researchers who build nanoscale electronics have developed microsensors so tiny, they can fit 30,000 on one side of a penny. They are equipped with an integrated circuit, solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that enable them to harness light for power and communication. And because they are mass fabricated, with up to 1 million sitting on an 8-inch wafer, each device costs a fraction of that same penny.

The sensors can be used to measure inputs like voltage and temperature in hard-to-reach environments, such as inside living tissue and microfluidic systems. For example, when rigged with a neural sensor, they would be able to noninvasively record nerve signals in the body and transmit findings by blinking a coded signal via the LED.

As a proof of concept, the team successfully embedded a sensor in brain tissue and wirelessly relayed the results.

The team's paper, "Microscopic Sensors Using Optical Wireless Integrated Circuits," published in PNAS.

The collaboration is led by Paul McEuen, professor of physical science, and Alyosha Molnar, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. Working with the paper's lead author, Alejandro Cortese, a Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, they devised a platform for parallel production of their optical wireless integrated circuits (OWICs) -- microsensors the size of 100 microns (a micron is one-millionth of a meter), mere specks to the human eye.

The OWICS are essentially paramecium-size smartphones that can be specialized with apps. But rather than rely on cumbersome radio frequency technology, as cellphones do, the researchers looked to light as a potential power source and communication medium.

McEuen, Molnar and Cortese have launched their own company, OWiC Technologies, to commercialize the microsensors. A patent application has been filed through the Center for Technology Licensing. The first application is the creation of e-tags that can be attached to products to help identify them.

The tiny, low-cost OWICs could potentially spawn generations of microsensors that use less power while tracking more complicated phenomena.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Cornell University. Original written by David Nutt. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alejandro J. Cortese, Conrad L. Smart, Tianyu Wang, Michael F. Reynolds, Samantha L. Norris, Yanxin Ji, Sunwoo Lee, Aaron Mok, Chunyan Wu, Fei Xia, Nathan I. Ellis, Alyosha C. Molnar, Chris Xu, Paul L. McEuen. Microscopic sensors using optical wireless integrated circuits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020; 201919677 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1919677117

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Tiny sensors fit 30,000 to a penny, transmit data from living tissue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200422132549.htm>.
Cornell University. (2020, April 22). Tiny sensors fit 30,000 to a penny, transmit data from living tissue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200422132549.htm
Cornell University. "Tiny sensors fit 30,000 to a penny, transmit data from living tissue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200422132549.htm (accessed April 16, 2024).

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