The shrinking size of electronics allows for the implantation of increasingly sophisticated electronic devices in the human body, paving the way for new prosthetics and brain-machine interfaces – think of the speculative phone tooth, conductive body paint or the brain-twitter interface. But so far a big challenge has been how to deliver power to electronic components embedded within the body.
While currently applied devices, such as cochlea or retinal implants, rely on inductive coupling, which means the power source needs to be centimeters away, engineers at Brown University have now developed an implantable neural sensing chip that is powered via a radio source that can be up to a meter away. The technology is similar to the equipment used to power and read information from radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.
So far, the technology has only been tested to measure neural activity in moths, but of course “the real challenges and application potential emerge in work with primates.” says Arto Nurmikko, professor of engineering at Brown University. Another small step in the diminishing of the border between people and products.