A team of engineers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has developed a way to create computer chips that can repair themselves. The new chips can reportedly fix problems “ranging from less-than-ideal battery power to total transistor failure” in microseconds. These self-healing integrated chips may sound like the stuff of science-fiction, but if the team’s research is successful, they could potentially transform the electronics industry.

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The new hi-tech chips were created at the High-Speed Integrated Circuits laboratory in Caltech’s Division of Engineering and Applied Science. There, the team demonstrated the chips’ self-healing capability via tiny power amplifiers. These new chips are so small that 76 of them can fit on a single penny. The team tested their self-healing ability by destroying various parts with a laser – the chips automatically developed a work-around in less than a second.

“It was incredible the first time the system kicked in and healed itself. It felt like we were witnessing the next step in the evolution of integrated circuits,” says Ali Hajimiri, the Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech. “We had literally just blasted half the amplifier and vaporized many of its components, such as transistors, and it was able to recover to nearly its ideal performance.”

The team published their research in the March issue of IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, where they noted that not a single fault (thus far) has rendered an integrated-circuit chip completely useless. The Caltech team modeled their self-healing chips on the human immune system, and they’re designed to respond to any number of problems in order to keep the larger system working optimally.

“Bringing this type of electronic immune system to integrated-circuit chips opens up a world of possibilities,” says Hajimiri. “It is truly a shift in the way we view circuits and their ability to operate independently. They can now both diagnose and fix their own problems without any human intervention, moving one step closer to indestructible circuits.”

+ A Fully-Integrated Self-Healing Power Amplifier (report from Caltech)

Via Caltech

Caltech and Fox O’Rian