We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make.
Pushing the limitsProducing wireless, miniature devices has increasingly become the focus of teams like that of Columbia University. “We are very interested in implantable devices we call ‘chip-as-system’ (CaS) devices, of which the chip developed in this study is one example,” Ken Shepard, the study’s leader and a professor of biomedical engineering, told Euronews. “These are implantables in which the entire implantable is a single integrated circuit. The metric here is volumetric efficiency – the amount of function that can be squeezed into a given amount of displaced volume.
‘CaS devices are the future’
“Our focus for these devices moving forward is actually wound healing, giving them many diverse sensing capabilities that can be reported back through an ultrasound image,” Shepard told Euronews.
As well as increasing functionality in a smaller device, the team’s goal was to develop a chip that could be administered using a hypodermic needle to inject it into the body rather than needing to use surgery.
While the chip currently only measures body temperature, the team see the study as a stepping stone for future advancements of implantable CaS devices.
“CaS devices have three main characteristics,” said Shepard.
“They have to have wireless powering and data (no wires or batteries); they have to integrate whatever additional transducers may be required (for the devices in this study, these are piezoelectric crystals); and the chips themselves have to be shaped into an implantable form factor (in this study, this is the ultra-small injectable but other form factors are possible depending on the application),” he added.
“In my honest opinion, CaS devices are the future of implantables for all kinds of applications”.