Researchers develop miniature battery-less ‘flying microchips’ with NFC • NFCW

WITHOUT BATTERY: The tiny microflier integrates a coil antenna, sensors and memory storage

Researchers at Northwestern University in the US have developed ‘flying microchips’ or sand-grain-sized microflies that embed micro-sensors and use NFC to harvest ambient energy and transfer data to a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Microflyers are the smallest flying structures ever created by man and can carry ultra-miniaturized technology, including sensors, antennas and memory storage that can be deployed in a wide range of use cases, including including monitoring air pollution, airborne disease and other environmental factors. The data.

The aerodynamic design of microflyers is based on the structure of natural winged seeds to ensure that when dropped from an airplane or building, they take flight with the wind, spin like a helicopter and fall to the ground. ground at a slow speed and in a controlled manner.

“Microfliers consist of two parts: functional millimeter-sized electronic components and their wings. As the microflyer falls through the air, its wings interact with the air to create a slow, steady spinning motion,” the researchers explain.

“The weight of the electronics is distributed low in the center of the microflier to keep it from losing control and falling to the ground in a chaotic manner.

“In demonstrated examples, [the team led by Northwestern’s John A Rogers] included sensors, a power source that can harvest ambient energy, memory storage, and an antenna that can wirelessly transfer data to a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

“In the lab, Rogers’ group equipped a device with all of these elements to detect particles in the air. In another example, they incorporated pH sensors that could be used to monitor water quality and photodetectors to measure sun exposure at different wavelengths.

Miniature batteryless flying microchips with NFC next to a pencil tip for scale
ULTRA-MINIATURIZED: Shown alongside a pencil tip for scale, the microflier is the size of a grain of sand

“Rogers imagines that large numbers of devices could be dropped from an aircraft or building and widely dispersed to monitor environmental remediation efforts after a chemical spill or to track pollution levels. air at different altitudes.”

“Most monitoring technologies involve mass instrumentation designed to collect data locally at a small number of locations in a spatial area of ​​interest,” says Rogers.

“We envision a large multiplicity of miniaturized sensors that can be distributed at high spatial density over large areas, to form a wireless network.”

A short video explains how the team developed the microtract.

The Rogers team at Northwestern University unveiled an NFC-powered dissolvable wireless pacemaker in June 2021 and an NFC-powered wearable VR feedback patch in November 2019.

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