Belgian research and innovation hub Imec has unveiled the world’s first mm-scale wireless transceiver for smart ingestible pills. The transceiver, which is up to 30 times smaller in volume compared to the current state-of-the-art, can be swallowed and used to collect and transmit real-time data on gut health, digestive processes and gastrointestinal disease. The device’s small stature and longer-term insertability offer an alternative to procedures like endoscopic inspection and stool sample analysis, which cause discomfort and provide only one-time observations.
Imec’s new wireless transceiver supports the 400 MHz ‘medical’ frequency bands such as Medical Implant Communication Service, among others. The device is implemented in 40nm CMOS and includes an on-chip tunable matching network (TMN) that enables a miniature 400 MHz antenna, and as such avoids external and bulky matching components. The transceiver module, including the antenna, occupies a volume of less than 55 mm3. The whole wireless module occupies an area of 3.5 by 15 mm2, including a 3.5 by 3.8 mm2 PCB and the antenna. The small form factor is realized thanks to a new crystal-free transceiver architecture, alleviating the need for an off-chip crystal device, and a 2 mm2 transceiver IC with the on-chip TMN.
“Smart ingestible pills and smart implants offer endless possibilities in what can be measured and treated in the body. This trend leverages on the miniaturization revolution in nanoelectronics, that enables smart, small and lightweight devices with minimal power consumption and maximal patient comfort,” explains Chris Van Hoof, VP of connected health at Imec and GM of the Oneplanet research center. “Through our longstanding leadership in microchip technology and in-depth expertise in software and ICT, we’re in an excellent position to develop the necessary building blocks for smart medical implants, related to sensing, actuation, powering, wireless communication, biocompatibility and data processing.”