• United States

Microscopic computers to come

Sep 04, 20032 mins

* Researchers working on computers that are really, really small

Scottish researchers say they are on the cusp of reducing the size of computers to that of a grain of sand.

With a $2 million grant from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, researchers at Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Strathclyde Universities are working on nanotechnology – a notion that computers will at some time be less than 100 nanometers in size.

The researchers are looking into the capability of embedding computers the size of individual grains of sand into aerosol sprays that can sprayed on a hospital patient’s chest, and then be used to monitor their condition.

They visualize the spray being able to relay information regarding the patient’s heart remotely to other computers. Normally, heart patients are hooked up to clumsy, large heart monitors that are not easily transportable. The use of a sprayable computer would eliminate the portability issue.

Each nanocomputer could consist of a sensor for heat, pressure and light, and communicate using wireless technology with the host computer.

Researchers hope to see results in four years and have their technology in use in 10 years.

Nanotechnology is related to ubiquitous computing, a field of research founded by the late Mark Weiser of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center.

In ubiquitous computing, computers are embedded in our environment and used without people even thinking about them.

Ubiquitous computing has also been referred to by computer researcher Alan Kay, formerly of Apple, as calm computing, where computers recede into the fabric of our everyday lives.