Scientists create salt-sized sensor to unlock mind secrets wirelessly

Scientists create salt-sized sensor to unlock mind secrets wirelessly

Scientists create salt-sized sensor to unlock mind secrets wirelessly

The sensor network is designed so that the chips can be implanted into the body or integrated into wearable devices while each sensor imitates how neurons in the brain communicate.

A team of scientists led by Brown University engineers presented electronic chips the size of a grain of salt. The study described a new approach for a wireless communication network that cannot just transmit, receive, and decode data from thousands of tinny chips.

The innovative approach advances the evolution of wireless sensor technology and prepares the ground for the future. One day, this could help in healthcare and large populations of sensors in implantable and wearable biomedical microdevices.

For example, as explained in one of the studies, wearable biosensors are getting attention due to their potential to provide continuous, real-time physiological information via noninvasive measurements of biochemical markers in biofluids, like sweat, tears, and saliva, so accurate and reliable real-time sensing of physiological information would have a broad impact on our daily lives.

A significant step forward

It is designed so that these small chips can be integrated into body-worn devices and can be implanted into the body. As scientists explained, each submillimeter-sized (less than a millimeter in diameter or wavelength) silicon sensor imitates how neurons in the brain communicate through spikes of electrical activity. They detect events like spikes and then transmit that data wirelessly in real time using radio waves while saving energy and bandwidth.

The researchers said this work marks a significant step forward in large-scale wireless sensor technology and may one day help shape how scientists collect and interpret information from these little silicon devices.

Reactions and comments

Jihun Lee, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown and study lead author, said in a statement that our brain works very sparsely and that neurons do not always fire. They compress data and fire sparsely so that they are very efficient.

“We are mimicking that structure here in our wireless telecommunication approach. The sensors would not be sending out data all the time, they’d just be sending relevant data as needed as short bursts of electrical spikes, and they would be able to do so independently of the other sensors and without coordinating with a central receiver. By doing this, we would manage to save a lot of energy and avoid flooding our central receiver hub with less meaningful data.” he adds.

Why are they convenient for use in different situations?

The sensors can use as little energy as they do because external transceivers supply wireless power to the sensors as they transmit their data, and that is how they can operate without needing to be plugged into a power source or battery, making them convenient for use in different situations.

Previous work

As Arto Nurmikko, a professor at Brown’s School of Engineering and the study’s senior author, said, we live in a world of sensors; they’re certainly in our automobiles, in so many places of work, and increasingly getting into our homes. He noted that the most demanding environment for these sensors will always be inside the human body.

The work builds on previous research from Nurmikko’s lab at Brown that introduced a new kind of neural interface system that used a coordinated network of tiny wireless sensors to record and stimulate brain activity.

This is a milestone

“If we continue to use conventional methods, we cannot collect the high channel data these applications will require in these kinds of next-generation systems,” says Lee. He concluded by stating that the current work provides a methodology to build on further.

Source: Interesting Engineering

Fiber-optic data transfer speeds hit a rapid 301 Tbps — 1.2 million times faster than your home broadband connection

Scientists create salt-sized sensor to unlock mind secrets wirelessly

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