Engineers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, USA, have designed microchips that can fly. These flying microchips, or microfliers, are the size of a grain of sand and can fly without a motor or motor, much like a maple leaf or the seeds of plants suspended in the air. They are the smallest flying structures ever built by man. The aerodynamics of the microflier are designed so that it falls in a stabilized manner at a slow speed. This ensures that it stays in the air longer and disperses over a wide area. These features make it ideal for monitoring air pollution and airborne illnesses. The research was published in the journal Nature.
John A. Rogers of Northwestern University, who led the development of the device, said in a press release: “Our goal was to add winged flight to small-scale electronic systems, with the idea that these capabilities would allow us to distribute miniaturized and highly functional electronic devices. devices for sensing the environment for contamination monitoring, population monitoring or disease monitoring. “
The design ideas were inspired by the organic world. The movement of the microflier can be compared to that of a propellant maple leaf falling from an elevation. Engineers have studied the aerodynamics of a number of plant seeds. They were most directly inspired by the tristellateia plant. It is a flowering vine with star seeds. The blade-like structure helps the seeds catch the wind to fall with a slow, rotating rotation.
Engineers built a three-winged model. Then, they studied the aerodynamics of their designs through large-scale computer modeling. The next step was to build and test structures in the laboratory.
Engineers designed the precursors of 2D structures and found ways to turn them into 3D models. Rogers said the process is useful because all existing semiconductor devices are built in planar configurations. This 2D to 3D transition will help them use all industry standard materials and manufacturing methods to build flat chips and then turn them into 3D shapes.
These microfliers can be packaged with ultra-miniaturized technology. These include sensors, a power source for recovering ambient energy, memory storage, and an antenna for wirelessly transferring data to another device.
The microfliers must be made of a bioabsorbable material which will biodegrade on contact with water.
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