Today more than ever, engineers and scientists are drawing inspiration from nature to develop new technologies.

Thanks to advances in electronics miniaturization, researchers have succeeded in pushing the boundaries of biomimetics by creating the smallest flying microchip or “microflier” ever.

It is the size of a grain of rice.

A team of engineers from Northwestern University in Illinois has just created an ultracompact electronic circuit capable of floating in the air for a long time.

The circuit is equipped with three tiny wings and resembles the rotors of a helicopter.

To maximize the aerodynamics of the microflyers, engineers studied maple trees and other types of wind-dispersed seeds so that the microchips fall at a slow speed and in a controlled manner when released at high altitudes.

“Over billions of years, nature has designed seeds with highly sophisticated aerodynamics.

We borrowed these concepts, adapted them and applied them to electronic circuit platforms, ”says John Rogers, the professor who led the development of the device.

A well-equipped microchip

The feat of this microchip lies in the fact that scientists were able to place sensors, antennas, storage and a power source on board a device of this size. However, it has no engine and therefore has to rely on the wind to move and stay in the air, like maple seeds.

The researchers believe that this time they managed to beat nature: "We were able to build structures that fall with more stable trajectories and at slower terminal speeds than the equivalent seeds that you would see in plants or trees" , congratulates John Rogers.

“We were also able to build structures at much smaller sizes than those found in nature.

This is important, because the miniaturization of devices represents the dominant development trajectory in the electronics industry.


Biodegradable components

With these microflyers, researchers hope to be able to effectively monitor air pollution and airborne diseases.

The shape of the microchips allows them to fall slowly and fly with the wind, giving them plenty of time to collect data along the way.

Obviously, it would be counterproductive for a device supposed to monitor the level of pollution to constitute itself a source of pollution.

All the more so since thousands of devices would be released into nature to carry out analyzes and it would have been impossible to recover these thousands of microscopic circuits after their dispersion.

Scientists say, however, that these microflyers will be biodegradable.

The materials used in their production decompose or dissolve quickly in water.

In the future, flying microchips should therefore be able to collect environmental data while floating in the air, before decomposing once their mission is completed.

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Keywords: size, flying microchip, advances, diseases., microchips, boundaries, john rogers, nature, engineers, pollution, technologies, scientists, researchers, microflyers, inspiration