Michigan Tech is collaborating in an unprecedented engineering partnership involving the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and 20 corporations. Researchers will focus on developing minuscule devices that can help predict the weather and restore hearing to the deaf.
Among its first projects, the centre will design and build a ‘smart’ tool to use in implanting a new cochlea implant. The surgical implants will be designed to bypass injured portions of the ear, but have the sound quality of a fading AM radio station.
The researchers plan to more than quadruple the stimulating electrodes to improve the quality, but continue to use a tiny package.
‘Our job is to package them in something a little over an inch long and about the thickness of five sheets of paper,’ said Craig Friedrich, associate professor of mechanical engineering and technical leader at Michigan Tech.
Michigan Tech also intends to develop housings for miniature environmental sensors to be used in any location.
‘A worker could have one of these sensors on a wrist-watch to determine if there were releases of hazardous chemicals,’ said Friedrich, ‘or a child could wear it and find out if they were near something that would bring on an asthma attack.’
Another ambitious project involves the development of microsensors the size of a sugar cube that could be placed anywhere to relay information on barometric pressure, temperature, or other weather data.
The challenge is to develop housings to hold various types of sensors and protect the microelectronics inside from potentially harsh environments outside.