U-M researchers create world’s smallest computer

By | July 4, 2018
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"Device next to a grain of rice"

Device next to a grain of rice. (Michigan News)

A team of researchers from U-M have created a computing device that is 0.3 mm, many times smaller than a grain of rice. That beats IBM’s March claim of creating the world’s smallest computer. However, unlike most existing devices—which retain their programming and data even when they are not externally powered—these new microdevices from IBM and now Michigan lose all prior programming and data as soon as they lose power.

“We are not sure if they should be called computers or not. It’s more of a matter of opinion whether they have the minimum functionality required,” said David Blaauw, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, who led the development of the new system together along with ECE colleagues Dennis Sylvester and Jamie Phillips.

Despite its tiny size, the system is very flexible and could be reimagined for a variety of purposes. In this instance, the team designed the microdevice as a precision temperature sensor because of a need in cancer research that relies on gauging temperature in tumors.

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