Researchers at the University of Michigan weren’t happy when IBM took the record for the smallest computer in the world. The university was the previous record holder for world’s smallest computer and set about getting the record back. Researchers at the school have been successful in that with a new record for world’s smallest computer falling to the team.
The computer in question is a scant 0.3mm across, that is much smaller than a grain of rice. To qualify as a computer some believe the device must retain programming data when not externally powered. That leads some to wonder if the new tiny device from IBM and University of Michigan’s own device qualify as computers. Both of those devices lose all programming when they lose power.
Michigan researcher David Blaauw says that it’s a matter of opinion if both of the machines have the minimum functionality required to be called computers. The computing device has RAM and photovoltaics along with processors and wireless transmitters and receivers. The computers created by both IBM and the University are so small they can’t have normal radio antennas.
Instead, they transfer and receive data using visible light. A base station provides the light for power and programming along with receiving data. The Michigan team had to invent new ways for circuit design that could tolerate light while being low power. Part of that was trading diodes for switched capacitors.
The tiny machine was designed as a precision temperature sensor and converts temperature into time intervals defined with electronic pulses. A steady time interval to compare to is sent by the base station. The team says that the little computer can be used for reporting temperatures in tiny regions, like clusters of cells, with an error of around 0.1C. The team believes that such a tiny computer could be used in the study of cancer among other uses.
SOURCE: University of Michigan