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Injectable chip invented to track human health using ultrasound 

Smartwatches and other wearables are improving all the time when it comes to monitoring our vital signs and other biometrics. But, instead of wearing a wristwatch, what if users could monitor their physiological processes by injecting a wireless chip into the bodies that could analyze their health from the inside? What if that chip was practically invisible, about the size of a dust mite, and could only be seen under a microscope? Engineers from Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science have created that. In partnership with the world’s largest chip fabrication firm, they created an ultrasound-powered, fully functional single injectable chip that would enter the human body by a hypodermic needle.

Currently, the chip can only detect temperature. They are made using a typical complementary meta-oxide-semiconductor foundry method, most commonly used in computer, cell phones and vehicle chips. Once the chips are ready to work, the piezoelectric transducers will be incorporated in them that will connect the ultrasound. After the chips have been returned from the lab from testing, the team plans to use ultrasound to transfer information from the body. This means that one of these devices may be implanted inside a patient’s body and provide real-time data on changes. This injectable chip could be utilized to monitor physiological variables like temperature, blood pressure, glucose, and respiration for both diagnostic and therapeutic treatments once it is fully functional and ready to use. The research was published in Science Advances on May 7th. Elisa Konofagou, the Robert and Margaret Hariri Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Radiology, and Stephen A. Lee, a PhD student in the Konofagou lab who assisted with the animal research, were also part of the team. Chen Shi, a doctorate student and the study’s primary author, created the design. Shi’s design is notable for its volumetric efficiency, or the amount of function packed into a given volume.

“We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make,” said the study’s leader Ken Shepard, Lau Family professor of electrical engineering and professor of biomedical engineering. “This is a new idea of ‘chip as system’ — this is an injectable chip that alone, with nothing else, is a completely functioning electronic system. This should be revolutionary for developing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices that can sense different things, be used in clinical applications, and eventually approved for human use.”

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