Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 19:12 GMT
The chip that's good for you
The MIT team believe bio-sensors on their chip could release drugs
A silicon chip which releases pulses of different drugs on demand is in prospect thanks to a new microelectronic device. The chip would be swallowed or implanted.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully tested a tiny chip which contained 34 pinprick-sized reservoirs. Each can hold 25 nanolitres of material.
Zapping a particular reservoir with a small voltage made its thin gold cover dissolve and released the chemical inside.
His colleague Dr. Michael Cima said: "Our Nature paper shows that the basic concept works, the next step is to do the engineering to make this into a real application."
The prototype chip is 17mm square but the researchers said they could reduce the size of the chip to only two millimetres. There is also the potential for more than 1,000 reservoirs if the reservoirs are smaller.
The chip is cheap - Langer and his team are making them in a research lab for about $20 each. But he predicts larger-scale production would drop the cost to a few dollars. The researchers have two patents pending.
The applications the team envisage are:
The MIT research was published in Nature.