How do you track a virus or disease that might be airborne? That would be quite a tall order and you probably have to rely on people getting infected and then tracing their steps to see where it might have originated from, and where it could be going next based on who the infected person has interacted with.
However, a team of researchers led by John A. Rogers, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurological Surgery at Northwestern University, have created winged microchips that can take to the skies and be used to track all sorts of things in the wind, whether it be airborne diseases or even pollutants.
These microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and can be deployed as a swarm where they can collect all sorts of useful data that might not have otherwise been possible. They are also made using biodegradable materials so that once they’ve landed, they are simply reabsorbed back into the environment.
According to Rogers who shared the inspiration behind the creation of the microchip, “We decided that that might be an interesting direction to pursue and began to ask questions like: what are the fundamental physics concepts that are behind the way that plants do dispersal? Could we leverage, downscale, and apply them to emerging miniaturized classes of electronics?”
That being said, these winged microchips are far from ready from being deployed and the team plans to expand on their research by exploring different designs, so it might be a while before they take to the skies.