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Engineers Build Self-Healing Electronic Chips

A team of engineers at the California Institute of Technology has developed self-healing integrated chips. The technology will allow chips in a smartphone or computer, for example, to repair and defend themselves on the fly, recovering in microseconds from problems ranging from less-than-ideal battery power to total transistor failure.

The Caltech engineers wanted to give integrated-circuit chips a healing ability akin to that of our own immune system — something capable of detecting and quickly responding to any number of possible assaults in order to keep the larger system working optimally.

The power amplifier they devised employs a multitude of robust, on-chip sensors that monitor temperature, current, voltage, and power. The information from those sensors feeds into a custom-made application-specific integrated-circuit (ASIC) unit on the same chip, a central processor that acts as the "brain" of the system.

The brain analyzes the amplifier's overall performance and determines if it needs to adjust any of the system's actuators — the changeable parts of the chip.

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Also: Learn about sample handling and analysis on a chip.