Today’s microchips, while tiny, still use a fair ammount of power. This means that batteries have to be large and don’t usually last very long. But what if microchips were just a little bit more efficient? That’s what a team of engineers at MIT was thinking when they set out to redesign the microchip to make it even more efficient. The result is a microchip with a power consumption that is so low it can be recharged by your very own body heat.

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Imagine the possibilities of bodyheat powered microchips: pacemakers could be powered by the body’s warmth, mobile phones by just moving them, and remote sensors could get energy just by the ambient energy around them. The key lies in the team’s ability to reduce the operating voltage of the device. Rather than operating at 1.0 volts, the new microchip operates at just 0.3 volts.

MIT’s prototype microchip is only a proof of concept and it will be five years before the chip can become commercially available. Among the challenges to solve is the manufacturing process involved in making the chips. The slightest error can cause variations in the voltage, thus making the chip unusable. “Designing the chip to minimize its vulnerability to such variations is a big part of our strategy,” said Anantha Chandrakasan leader of the MIT team.

+ Team develops energy-efficient microchip