Sensors and Surveillance: A Marriage Made in Sci Fi

May 4, 2020

We can expect the volume of data available for analyses, tracking, and monitoring to skyrocket. EurekaAlert!, a site operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, reports, “Tiny Sensors Fit 30,000 to a Penny, Transmit Data from Living Tissue.” The project out of the Cornell Center for Materials Research was described in the team’s paper, published in PNAS on April 16. The optical wireless integrated circuits (OWICs) are a mere 100 microns in size. The news release explains:

“[The sensors] 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 micro fluidic 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. … The OWICS are essentially paramecium-size smartphones that can be specialized with apps. But rather than rely on cumbersome radio frequency technology, as cell phones do, the researchers looked to light as a potential power source and communication medium.”

The researchers have already formed a company, OWiC Technologies, to market the sensors and have applied for a patent. The first planned application is a line of e-tags for product identification. The write-up predicts many different uses will follow for these micro sensors that can track more complicated data with less power for fewer dollars. Stay tuned.

Cynthia Murrell, May 4, 2020

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