Is computer miniaturization becoming a trend? While Google announced Chromebit, a computer the size of a USB drive, American researchers from the University of Michigan developed an even smaller computer for industrial applications.
M3, for Michigan Micro Mote, is a 2-millimeter diameter computing system without any mouse or keyboard. Smaller than a grain of rice, it can take pictures, record temperature and pressure data, and transmit up to 2 meters.
According to the researchers, miniaturizing the battery was the biggest challenge. They had to design an energy-efficient device on a tiny scale. The battery is powered by solar cells that react to ambient light and not just natural sunlight, which allows M3 to operate forever.
Light is also used to program it. Due to its small size, M3 cannot receive information via cables or other conventional means. Instead, the researchers use high-frequency stroboscopic light. The variation in light is equivalent to the binary 0-1 language, one the computer’s photoelectric cell is able to read. M3 then uses an ordinary radio frequency to transmit data.
The oil and gas industry might be interested in this system. M3 could be placed within wells to detect any unexploited pockets of oil. The researchers are now working on the next step—extending the communication range to 20 meters.