In case you are wondering, being just two millimetres across, the computer is so small that almost 150 of them can fit in a thimble. But don’t be fooled by its size; the computer is powerful enough to read temperatures, record pressure, take pictures and be used for radio communication.
The result of a decade of hard work of the faculty and students of the Computer Science Department at the University of Michigan, the Micro Mote contains solar cells that power the battery with ambient light, including indoor rooms with no natural sunlight, allowing the computers to run perpetually. The miniscule Phoenix Processor (915 x 915 µm2), an ultra-low operating voltage and a unique standby mode help the Micro Mote to lower its power consumption to only 500pW (which is pretty amazing considering the fact that the average power consumption of a single human cell is about 1pW).
“To be ‘complete,’ a computer system must have an input of data, the ability to process that data – meaning process and store it, make decisions about what to do next – and ultimately, the ability to output the data. The sensors are the input and the radios are the output. The other key to being a complete computer is the ability to supply its own power,” Professor David Blaauw, one of the great minds behind the project explained.
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One of the major challenges faced was not to make the chip small but to make it low power. The M^3 is programmed and charged via light. By strobing light at a high frequency, the operator is able to send information to the computer. Once the Micro Mote processes the data, it is able to send the information to a central computer via conventional radio frequencies, reports CBSNews.
This piece of technology just opened the doors to a completely new class of computing fondly being term as ‘smartdust’ and is bound to come up with more and more innovative applications in the near future.
Did this amazingly small computer Micro Mote M^3 surprise you? Do tell us in comments!