ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan Micro Mote is the world’s smallest computer. It’s smaller than a grain of rice and comparable to the edge of a penny.
This computer is not going to be on store shelves anytime soon and doesn’t come with an ergonomic keyboard, but it has created a great deal of buzz in the science community because it seems like science fiction.
Science fiction becomes reality every day and this breakthrough in computing has us one step closer to true nanotechnology which is science, engineering and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers. A nanometer is a unit of measurement and there are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch. If you have problems grasping this, think of a page of newspaper: it’s 100,000 nanometers thick. Or, if a nanometer was a marble, then a meter would be the size of the Earth.
The idea of nanotechnology isn’t new. It was first suggested by physicist Richard Feynman on December 29, 1959. He envisioned the entire Encyclopedia Britannica being printed on the head of pin. The term “nanotechnology” was coined by Professor Norio Taniguchi in 1981. The idea is smaller is better, but why?
Technology hit a wall in 2004 when the processors for computers had reached the point where they couldn’t be any faster or bigger and fit on a microchip without melting it. It was a case of size and heat ratio. How do we fix that? By going smaller, hence nanotechnology and the Michigan Micro Mote.
The Micro Mote or MMM (also referred to as M3) was created by David Blaauw and a team of five students. Dr. David Blaauw, a computer science professor at University of Michigan, explained that it took them over a decade to make it work. It is a complete computer in that it can receive data input, process it, make decisions, and then output data based on the decision.
MMM is both powered and programmed using light, according to the university. Pulses of the high density light are used to input data or program the computer. It can communicate with other computers using radio frequencies. It contains a Phoenix processor that needs just 500 pico-watts when it is in standby mode. A pico-watt is equal to one trillionth of a watt.
Medicine wants it to do internal scans or to target certain areas for mapping purposes. The scientists at University of Michigan are already working on ways to make it even smaller for possible injection by syringe.Industry wants it for oil exploration and to get better results from existing oil deposits. The military is interested in possible uses for reconnaissance and information gathering. Consumer applications could be having a MMM attached to keys, phone, or any other item you’d want to be able to track if it was lost. However it is used, MMM is going to change the way we do things.