The small, winged microchip, which is equal to the size of the sand grain, can monitor many things like the spread of airborne disease. It’s very light, hence able to fly in the air even in calm conditions.
Engineers from Northwestern University invented the technology. Nature publishes an article concerning these tiny microfibers. They refer to it as the tiniest flying structure that human beings have artificially made.
Can gather the Surrounding information
The design got inspiration from the free-falling propeller, seeds from maple trees. The samara fruits were then investigated and tested to see if they could build something similar. John Rodgers, the leader behind the development of Tiny microchips, said they optimized some aerodynamics of their flying microchip. They wanted something that could freely interact with air. The side wings cause rotation motion, which makes the microfilm very stable. Then it falls off at a very slow velocity, a report by BBC.
Strong winds, just enough to cause dispersal, allow the structure to interact to the maximum. John chairs the biomedical engineering and department of neurological surgery at Northwestern University.
In strong winds, the tiny microchips scatter in the surrounding areas and collect much information. The report showed that microfliers could help in the surveillance of the population. Furthermore, it can collect contamination data and track a variety of diseases.
The developers have high hopes that the flying microchip will act like swarms. Furthermore, the question arises of whether they can replace drones. Even though microfliers are unique in design, it’s easier to shift them to drones. Before March 2022, the NRP reported that they would develop similar micro-drones to see how they performed. The flying microchip contributed to the making of the science-fiction movie “Black Mirror.”
Does it mean we beat nature?
They copied how maple seed behaves before reaching the ground, but they wanted something to stay in space for a longer period. Mathematics was involved in calculating the best design that could help it disperse and fall off slowly. The developer said such staff could not be given trial and error measurements.
Some pop-up books from children inspired the team to construct tiny devices. They built a minor base before bonding it to stretch rubber. During relaxation, the substrate pops up into a 3D, precise shape.
Rodgers said he thinks their knowledge beats nature. These structures can now fall with stable trajectories. In addition, the terminal velocity is much slower as compared to that of maple seeds from trees. The team is still working on research to modify their micro fliers dispersal technology.
Over time, we expect the world to be a better place filled with automatic objects. Technology like flying microchips will change the way we collect information. They can also be used to collect data in very dangerous places, like war regions.
Big tech giants will come in to support such technologies. Some people can even invest in making the process successful. So let’s wait for the microdrones next year.