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Stanford Engineer Aims to Connect the World With Ant-Sized Radio

The tiny radio-on-a-chip gathers all the power it needs from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna.

Stanford engineers have developed a radio the size of an ant, which they think will enable the Internet of Things.

Credit: Amin Arbabian

Stanford engineers say they have created a radio the size of an ant they think will be the key to creating the connected world of the Internet of Things.

The researchers say the radio contains a receiver that can harvest all the energy it needs to operate from electromagnetic waves, making it extremely energy efficient. It also integrates a high-frequency transmitter for sending information over short distances, and a processor for controlling these functions.

Putting all of the components onto one tiny chip that requires no external power or other components and that can be fabricated at a cost of only a few cents apiece is a critical innovation, says Stanford professor Amin Arbabian. The Stanford team began the project in 2011 and currently is testing 100 prototypes of the chip.

Arbabian says he envisions entire homes suffused with the tiny radios to bring new functionality to everything from light bulbs to kitchen appliances. "The next exponential growth in connectivity will be connecting objects together and giving us remote control through the Web," he says. "Cheap, tiny, self-powered radio controllers are an essential requirement for the Internet of Things."

From Stanford Report (CA)
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