Self-Reconfigurable Micro-Implants

Mohamed Abdelhamid

New technology for next-generation wireless + batteryless micro-implants

These wireless batteryless micro-chips can reprogram themselves inside the body, and open up new capabilities in drug delivery, long-term monitoring, and early disease detection.

We present the design, implementation, and evaluation of µmedIC, a fully-integrated wireless and batteryless micro-implanted sensor. The sensor powers up by harvesting energy from wireless signals and communicates at net-zero power. They could be used for continuous monitoring of biomarkers and tumors, ultra-long lasting drug delivery systems (e.g., for patients with Alzheimer’s or Osteoporosis), and closed-loop control systems with real-time feedback (e.g., artificial pancreas for Diabetes’ patients).

We built our design on millimeter-sized integrated chips and flexible antenna substrates. Our micro-chips are:

  • Ultra-low-power: They consume as little as 350 nanoWatts.  
  • High-data-rate:  They can transfer data up to 6Megabits per second from inside the body. This allows us to support high data rate applications like streaming low-resolution images.
  • Adaptive to Tissues: They can adapt to different surrounding tissues by shifting their resonance (by more than 200MHz)

µmedIC has been tested in-vitro (fluids) and ex-vivo (in different multi-layer tissues with meat, fat, and bone). It builds on our earlier generation implants that have been tested in living pigs.

µmedIC is a general-purpose micro-implant that is wireless, batteryless, and intelligent

µmedIC's fully-integrated design has a large number of modules, including:

  • Energy harvester to power up from wireless signals: including rectifiers and tunable matching units to adapt to different tissues, as well as power management unit.
  • Wireless transmitter and receivers: for transmitting and receiving packets outside the body. The transmitter employs backscatter and operates at near-zero power. 
  • On-board intelligence: including logic for controlling the adaptation as well as decoding and encoding packets.

µmedIC is the first wireless and batteryless micro-implant capable of operating across different tissues

Design-wise, we invented reprogrammable antennas for micro-implants. This design allows µmedIC to self-reconfigure inside the body. Because it can adapt to surrounding tissues, our new micro-chip requires 10x less wireless power our own previous design

The reprogrammable antennas are implemented as micro-strips on a flexible substrate. The design relies on a novel coupled-loop structure, as you can see in the image below with an inner circular loop and outer rectangular loop. This coupled design enables the microimplant to adapt its resonance to surrounding tissues.

Applications range from smart pills to continuous sensing of biomarkers and tumors

If you're interested in learning more, click on the button below to read the full paper.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation CAREER Award (CNS-1844280)

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is µmedIC?
  2. What makes μmedIC unique?
  3. What types of medical applications can μmedIC enable?
  4. What were some of the biggest technical challenges in the development?
  5. Has μmedIC been tested in humans or animals?
  1. What is µmedIC?

    μmedIC a new technology for next-generation wireless and batteryless micro-implants. It can be swallowed or implanted and used for detecting, monitoring, or predicting diseases and biomarkers. 

  2. What makes μmedIC unique?

    μmedIC is the first wireless and batteryless micro-implant that can operate across different tissues inside the human (i.e., not limited to a single tissue or organ). This is important for applications like small pills or other implants that need to travel to different organs inside the body. 

    Its key innovation is a reprogrammable micro-antenna that can harvest energy and communicate, and reconfigure itself to adapt to different tissues inside the body.

  3. What types of medical applications can μmedIC enable?

    μmedIC enables medical applications like long-lasting smart pills (for drug delivery and medical adherence), continuous monitoring of biomarkers and tumors, and predicting the early onset of disease by monitoring the human body from the inside.

  4. What were some of the biggest technical challenges in the development?

    The biggest challenge facing μmedIC is that wireless signals  and antennas behave quite differently from one surround tissue to the other. So, an implant designed to power up in a muscle-like tissue will not power up if implanted in a fat-like tissue.

  5. Has μmedIC been tested in humans or animals?

    μmedIC has been tested in different tissues, and the team has tested its technology in animals (pigs). Future iterations of the technology would be tested in animals and eventually humans.