Radio chip inspired by human ear

Jun 17, 2009 6:25 pm

By David Pescovitz on Boing Boing:
MIT researchers built a radio chip inspired by the inner ear. The "RF cochlea chip" could be a key component in a "cognitive radio," a device that can determine the appropriate frequency and power consumption required and adjust itself accordingly. Such a universal radio architecture could efficiently handle a wide range of signals, from cellular to WiFi to television. From MIT News:
The RF cochlea mimics the structure and function of the biological cochlea, which uses fluid mechanics, piezoelectrics and neural signal processing to convert sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain.

As sound waves enter the cochlea, they create mechanical waves in the cochlear membrane and the fluid of the inner ear, activating hair cells (cells that cause electrical signals to be sent to the brain). The cochlea can perceive a 100-fold range of frequencies -- in humans, from 100 to 10,000 Hz. Sarpeshkar used the same design principles in the RF cochlea to create a device that can perceive signals at million-fold higher frequencies, which includes radio signals for most commercial wireless applications...

The RF cochlea, embedded on a silicon chip measuring 1.5 mm by 3 mm, works as an analog spectrum analyzer, detecting the composition of any electromagnetic waves within its perception range. Electromagnetic waves travel through electronic inductors and capacitors (analogous to the biological cochlea's fluid and membrane). Electronic transistors play the role of the cochlea's hair cells.