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This Ant-Sized Radio Is Powered by the Messages It Receives


Passing these digital tally marks along will be a huge wireless challenge, and the solution may come from a tiny radio that costs pennies to make and draws power from the information it receives.

Engineers from UC Berkeley and Stanford University have printed an ant-sized radio onto a silicon chip (paywall). Small radios already exist (Wal-Mart uses them to track inventory), but most transmit and receive at lower frequencies. They can send lots of information at a time, but only at the expense of larger antennas. That adds to the cost and development time because the antenna and radio chip must be made separately, bonded together, and then tested.

The Berkeley/Stanford team went the opposite direction, by amping up their data rate to 24 GHz for receiving and 60 GHz for transmitting (most micro-radios top out at around 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz, respectively).

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