Scientists have created what they claim is the world's smallest computer system that is just one square millimetre in size and can fit into one's eyeball. Developed by a team at the University of Michigan, the unnamed tiny device is a pressure monitor that can be implanted in a person's eye to treat glaucoma. It may be just one square millimetre in size but it packs a hefty punch, containing an ultra low-power microprocessor, a pressure sensor, memory and a thin film battery, the Daily Mail reported.
It also has a solar cell and a wireless radio with an antenna that can transmit data to an external reader device, the researchers said. The device is already being touted as the future of the computing industry, although it needs several more years to be commercially available. Its creators -- Professors Dennis Sylvester, David Blaauw and David Wentzloff -- claim that as the device's radio needs no tuning to find the right frequency it could link to a wireless network of computers.
A network of such units could one day track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and trackable, the scientists said. Professor Sylvester said: "When you get smaller than hand-held devices, you turn to these monitoring devices.
"The next big challenge is to achieve millimetre-scale systems, which have a host of new applications for monitoring our bodies, our environment and our buildings.
"Because they're so small, you could manufacture hundreds of thousands on one wafer.
"There could be tens to hundreds of them per person and it's this per capita increase that fuels the semi-conductor industry's growth."
Currently, the system is a pressure monitor designed to be implanted in the eye to continuously track the progress of glaucoma, a potentially blinding disease, they said. The processor in the eye pressure monitor is the third generation of the researchers' Phoenix chip, which uses a unique design and an extreme sleep mode to achieve ultra-low power consumption. The newest system wakes every 15 minutes to take measurements and consumes an average of 5.3 nanowatts. To keep the battery charged, it requires exposure to ten hours of indoor light each day or 1.5 hours of sunlight. It can store up to a week's worth of information.
While this system is miniscule and complete, its radio doesn't equip it to talk to other similar devices, which is an important feature for any system targetted towards wireless sensor networks. But, the researchers are confident their miniature device will take off. "The applications for systems of this size are endless," they added.