Scientistsu, engineers, and doctors yearn for tiny sensors to record a vast array of events in the world's many hard-to-reach places. And so far, the tradeoff between battery life and size has prevented sensors from becoming small enough to fit unobtrusively in the human body, or inside very small machines. Now, University of Michigan researchers seem to have solved that puzzle by creating a chip that draws energy through solar power, heat, or movement. By forgoing a large battery for perpetual environmental power, the U of M scientists managed to produce a sensor 1,000 times smaller than any other similar device.
Thus far, the researchers haven't developed any specific applications for the sensor platform, but already imagine it being deployed within the body to measure pressure in the head and eyes, in huge arrays in the wild to measure environmental disturbances at a very high resolution, or in the water supply to measure levels of contaminants.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.