Michigan University's millimeter scale glaucoma sensor

Healthcare moves toward mm-scale

Glaucoma monitor points to next stage in ubiquitous comptuing

A team from the University of Michigan has developed a near millimeter-scale system prototype to track eye pressure in glaucoma patients, and is promoting the work as a new stage in the concept of ubiquitous electronics.

Glaucoma affects 67 million people worldwide. Ongoing monitoring techniques can help physicians prescribe appropriate treatment and check whether patients are observing such programmes.

The Michigan prototype, unveiled at the International Solid State Circuits Conference, measures just 1.5cu mm and integrates a MEMS pressure sensor, processor, transceiver, solar cell and microbattery in a biocompatible enclosure. It can be implanted on the eye using a small incision, akin to those made in established outpatient cataract surgery.

The work, led by professors Dennis Sylvester and David Blaauw and assistant professor David Wentzloff of the university’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is part of a drive to develop millimeter-scale applications across a wide range beyond the current ‘hot button’ area of medical devices.

"When you get smaller than hand-held devices, you turn to these monitoring devices," Blaauw said. "The next big challenge is to achieve millimeter-scale systems, which have a host of new applications for monitoring our bodies, our environment and our buildings. Because they're so small, you could manufacture hundreds of thousands on one wafer. There could be tens to hundreds of them per person and it's this per capita increase that fuels the semiconductor industry's growth."

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