Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a low-power microchip which they claim uses 30,000 times less power in sleep mode, and 10 times less in active mode, than comparable commercially available chips.

The Phoenix processor, which measures one millimetre square, has a thin-film battery which is the same size. Creating such a small battery is a major achievement, according to the team. “In most cases, batteries are much larger than the processors they power, drastically expanding the size and cost of the entire system,” said David Blaauw, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

As well as simply reducing power consumption, the team hope that the breakthrough will advance the development of cutting-edge sensor-based devices such as medical implants, environment monitors and surveillance equipment. “Our system, including the battery, is projected to be 1,000 times smaller than the smallest known sensing system today,” said Professor Blaauw. “It could allow for a host of new sensor applications.”