September 28, 2021

Tiny Microchip Takes Flight

If you thought flying insects were a bother, imagine a tiny flying machine getting stuck in your hair while it does its job of checking the atmosphere in an area.

A bunch of big brains at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, have recently created an engineering feat that are basically airborne microchips in a shape resembling a flying insect

The devices – referred to as “microfliers” – are equipped with sensors, power supplies, wireless communication antennae and onboard memory storage. All of these fit on a piece of technology no larger than a grain of sand, which aids with riding wind gusts due to having no motor.

The researchers took inspiration from the seeds of various plants that have aerodynamic properties, then used 3D printers to create the blade-like structures.

John A. Rogers, head of the project, said: “Our goal was to add winged flight to small-scale electronic systems, with the idea that these capabilities would allow us to distribute highly functional, miniaturised electronic devices to sense the environment for contamination monitoring, population surveillance or disease tracking.”

Rogers also believes they can be dropped en masse to enhance accurate data collection. Due to their intended use, they realised the environmental impact of such swarms, so they were designed with degradable materials in mind.

He added: “We recognise that recovery of large collections of microfliers might be difficult. To address this concern, these environmentally resorbable versions dissolve naturally and harmlessly.”

Image Credit: Source