Imagine a cloud of sensors, each the size of a grain of sand or even smaller, blown aloft by hurricane winds and relaying data on the storm to weather stations below. Picture an invisible sensor network embedded into a smart city’s roads to monitor traffic, road surface damage and identify available parking spaces – all in real time. Or billions of nanosensors distributed over forests and other areas with fire hazards to detect a fire at its very beginning. Or envision programmable smart dust that triggers an alarm signal when invisible microcracks are detected in a turbine blade.
Smart dust refers to wireless networks of sub-millimeter-scale autonomous computing and sensing platforms not larger than a grain of sand. Smart dust senses and records data about its environment such as light, temperature, sound, presence of toxins or vibrations, and transmits that data wirelessly to larger computer systems.
Smart dust is a vision of the networked future where intelligent networks of trillions of miniscule sensors continuously feel, taste, smell, see, and hear what is going on in their surrounding environment, communicate with each other and exchange information. Smart dust networks are the ultimate Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.
Smart dust is revolutionary because the sensors are small enough to be put anywhere, even in narrow and difficult areas. Another huge advantage is that these devices work without any human intervention as they are pre-programmed and, notwithstanding their tiny size, have their own power supply.
This technology is expected to not only monitor building controls, pipelines, factory equipment and drug-making processes, but it will also lead to ubiquitous autonomous artificial intelligent computation near the end user, such as authentication, medical procedures and health care monitoring, sensing and tracking, industrial and supply chain monitoring, and defense applications.
Although smart dust devices are not quite in dust-size territory, researchers hope to shrink these devices to the size of a speck of dust via nanotechnology.
To be economically feasible, such single-use devices have to be cheap (we are talking pennies or even fractions of a penny), even cheaper than the radio-frequency identification tags currently used to track the inventory of warehouses, for example.
How does smart dust work and what does it do?
Smart dust networks contain nodes (called ‘mote’) that combine sensing, computing, wireless communication capabilities and autonomous power supply in a tiny package with a volume of few cubic millimeters or even less.
Smart dust is based on microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS. MEMS consist of any combination of mechanical (levers, springs, membranes, etc.) and electrical (resistors, capacitors, inductors, etc.) components to work as sensors or actuators. In the future, as fabrication technologies advance, this will shrink further down in size to NEMS – nanoelectromechanical systems.
Motes are constructed using conventional silicon microfabrication techniques and can remain suspended in an environment similar to dust (hence the name).
A mite, less than 1 mm in size, approaching a microscale gear chain. (Image: Sandia National Laboratories)
Each mote can be left unattended to collect environmental data such as light, temperature, pressure, vibrations, the existence of toxins, etc., and transmit this data wirelessly to larger, remote computer systems – or, depending on the mote's computing power, processes it directly at the point of data collection.
For instance, in an industrial setting, smart dust sensors relay signals back to a command computer, which then compiles the data to give feedback to plant managers. Or the results could trigger an automatic response, such as turning down a building's temperature or reducing the flow of water.
Another example is DARPA's SHIELD program that plans to use microscale chips to track and authenticate the supply chain of computer chips for defense applications. The goal is to eliminate counterfeit integrated circuits from the electronics supply chain by making counterfeiting too complex and time-consuming to be cost effective. SHIELD aims to combine NSA-level encryption, sensors, near-field power and communications into a tiny chip capable of being inserted into the packaging of an integrated circuit.
Origin of the smart dust concept
‘Smart Dust’ was first conceived in the 1990s by Dr. Kris Pister while a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, as a simple way to deploy intelligent wireless sensors.
At the time, Pister imagined a world in which ubiquitous sensors could measure everything that could be measured. Immediately, he thought about environmental applications such as weather tracking (read his concept paper from 2000: Emerging challenges: Mobile networking for “Smart Dust”).
But it doesn’t come as a surprise that it was the military that gave the impetus, and financing, for developing smart dust. In 1992, DARPA funded Pister’s research in the Smart Dust project (you can read the original proposal here as PDF).
Schematic of a smart dust battlefield sensor network as depicted in the grant application for DARPA’s Smart Dust project: Thousands of sensor nodes covering square kilometers are delivered by autonomous helicopter. They track motion of vehicles for hours/days, and report information superimposed on live video when interrogated by hand-held receiver or helicopter-borne receiver.
Components of a smart dust mote
Very basically, every mote consists of four device classes: sensors, circuits, communication, and power supply. In a wireless sensor node this would conceptually look like this schematic:
Example for the system design of a wireless sensor node. It consists of a 3D-printed functional cube package which contains several inkjet-printed sensors and the antenna. The circuit board has also been 3D-printed and contains the microelectronics enclosed in the package. (Source: DOI 10.1002/admt.201700051)
The entire package contains one or more MEMS or NEMS sensors to perform the mote’s principal sensing purpose of detecting and measuring things like vibration, temperature, pressure, sound, light, magnetic field, etc. Circuits (microcontroller) to interface with the sensors and process and store data. Communication ideally comprises a transmitter and 3D antenna which ensures equal radiation in all directions, thus enabling orientation insensitive communication. Power supply for the entire mote, depending on the area of operation, could be a solar cell array or some form of thin-film battery or supercapacitor.
The whole package looks like this:
Read more about this 3D-printed, fully integrated wireless sensor device.
Although the cube dimensions in above example are 21 mm on each side, it illustrates the basic concept and component architecture of a smart dust mote. Inevitable miniaturization will ultimately lead to sub-micron scale for these devices.
Here are two more examples of how miniaturization leads to incredibly tiny components.
3D printed microscale lens systems
Scanning electron microscope image of the hexagonal lens arrangement. Each doublet lens system has a diameter of 120 µm and a height of 128 µm. Scale bar, 100 µm. (Source: DOI 10.1038/NPHOTON.2016.121)
Researchers have demonstrated fully working multi-lens objectives with sizes of around 100 microns, roughly the size of a grain of salt, that could lead to smart dust motes with autonomous vision. The lenses show unprecedented performances and high optical quality with resolutions of up to 500 line pairs per millimeter for imaging applications.
Dust-sized power supply
Ever smaller energy storage devices in the submillimeter range for even smaller microelectronic components are a major technical challenge. Nevertheless, researchers manage to continuously reduce their size, as this example of a nanosupercapacitor shows – it is the size of a speck of dust but packs the voltage of an AAA battery:
Each of the 90 tubular supercapacitors on the fingertip holds a volume of just 1 nanoliter (0.001 mm3) but delivers up to 1.6 V supply voltage.
Neural smart dust
Granted, this application is a bit further out, but actively worked on by researchers. And, again, the military is spearheading this through DARPA’s Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program.
Researchers have developed a safe, millimeter-scale wireless device small enough to be implanted in individual nerves, capable of detecting electrical activity of nerves and muscles deep within the body, and that uses ultrasound for power coupling and communication. They call these devices neural dust.
Each neural dust sensor consists of only three main parts: a pair of electrodes to measure nerve signals, a custom transistor to amplify the signal, and a piezoelectric crystal that serves the dual purpose of converting the mechanical power of externally generated ultrasound waves into electrical power and communicating the recorded nerve activity.
And while not networked yet, researchers already demonstrated the feasibility of inserting computer chips into individual cells. But you can imagine where this could go… (dear conspiracy theorists: PLEASE don’t send us your comments!).
Current status and challenges
The main challenges researchers have been grappling with are the lack of enough power on the small footprint and the difficulties of integrating power systems into these highly scaled devices. Since the storage density of battery technologies has not followed Moore's law scaling trends, IoT systems need to rely on power conversion from outside sources such as thermal, vibrational, light, or radio waves.
As nanoelectronics and packaging technologies evolve, though, now may be the right time that we start to rethink the solutions for these problems and advance towards more powerful small computer systems than what was originally proposed.
The ability to integrate various nanoelectronic chiplets – such as processor, memory, and photovoltaics – in an industrial-scale wafer-level-packaging process, creating solar-powered smart dust, unlocks the potential of large-scale manufacturing of these compact integrated systems with high performance and ultralow cost.
Applications of smart dust
The vast range of smart dust application makes it impossible to provide detailed descriptions in just a single article. So we just list some major areas below:
Animation of the hydrogen dissociation and uptake on a palladium surface. The smart dust (a silica shell-isolated gold nanoparticle) reports changes in the local chemical environment via spectral shifts in its scattering spectrum. (Source: Sven Hein, 4th Physics Institute, University of Stuttgart)
Smart dust risks and concerns
Wide-scale adoption of smart dust would bring with it a namber of risks:
Privacy. Many that have reservations about the real-world implications of smart dust are concerned about privacy issues. Smart dust devices will become so small that they are invisible to our naked eye and, therefore, are extremely difficult to detect. They can be programmed to record whatever their sensors are capable of (ironically, people have begun to voluntarily carry devices that would accomplish exactly that). You probably won’t know who is collecting the data and what they are doing with it. Your imagination can run wild regarding the negative privacy implications when smart dust falls into the wrong hands
Control. Once billions of smart dust devices are deployed over an area it would be difficult to retrieve or capture them if necessary. Given how small they are, it would be challenging to detect them if you weren’t made aware of their presence. The volume of smart dust that could be engaged by a rogue individual, company or government to do harm would make it challenging for the authorities to control if necessary.
Cost. As with any new technology, the cost to implement a smart dust system that includes the satellites and other elements required for full implementation is high. Until costs come down, it will be technology out of reach for many.
Pollution. Smart dust motes essentially are single-use devices. Unless they are fully biodegradable the question arises if they will pollute the areas where they are used (soil, air, water).
Health. As soon as smart dust particles shrink to the nanoscale, their risk profile will match that of nanoparticles in general and the potential health risk associated with inhaling or ingesting them.
Legal issues. The lack of security protecting information created by smart dust networks is creating not only privacy concerns, but the network can be accessed without authorization (i.e., hacked) by third parties and its information can be used for illegal purposes.
Check out our SmartWorlder section to read more about smart technologies.
Smart dust senses and records data about its environment such as light, temperature, sound, presence of toxins or vibrations, and transmits that data wirelessly to larger computer systems.Is smart dust used on humans? ›
Smart dust devices work without any human intervention as they are preprogrammed. Owing to their small size and weight, they can be easily positioned in narrow and difficult areas. They can collect detailed information in multiple circumstances, which have proved highly beneficial in various research and industries.Can smart dust be inhaled? ›
“Nano particles and Smart Dust [is] being absorbed by all of us via inhalation of chemtrail fallout and from contaminated grocery store food (including organically grown food) where the crops pick up and absorb the same Nano particles and Smart Dust that we are breathing in.How much does smart dust cost? ›
Prices range from $50 to $100 each today, and Pister anticipates that they will fall to $1 within five years.What is the another name of smart dust? ›
Smart dust — also known as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) — capable of scaling up IoT scope even as size scales down. While business applications for smart dust are already emerging, this tiny technology could offer substantial benefits for post-secondary processes.How is smart dust implanted? ›
During that operation, the skull would be opened, and sensors would be inserted into the brain. At the same time a separate transceiver would be placed directly under the skull but above the brain. The transceiver would communicate with the sensors via ultrasound.Why was smart dust created? ›
In 1997, the researcher Kristofer Pister coined the term 'smart dust' to describe these millimetre-sized devices. Pister and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, aimed to create a network of sensors made up of tiny wireless computer systems called 'motes'.What is the main ingredient in household dust? ›
More than just dirt, house dust is a mix of sloughed-off skin cells, hair, clothing fibers, bacteria, dust mites, bits of dead bugs, soil particles, pollen, and microscopic specks of plastic. It's our detritus and, it turns out, has a lot to reveal about our lifestyle.What are smart dust sensors? ›
Smart dust is a system of many tiny microelectromechanical systems such as sensors, robots, or other devices, that can detect light, temperature, vibration, magnetism, chemicals and other stimuli.What happens if you inhale silica dust once? ›
Silica is a substance naturally found in certain types of stone, rock, sand and clay. Working with these materials can create a very fine dust that can be easily inhaled. Once inside the lungs, it causes swelling (inflammation) and gradually leads to areas of hardened and scarred lung tissue (fibrosis).
They can be implanted in the body or injected for ultrasound purposes and also sensor chips can be installed to help with any issue.What happens if you inhale dust everyday? ›
Particles that evade elimination in the nose or throat tend to settle in the sacs or close to the end of the airways. But if the amount of dust is large, the macrophage system may fail. Dust particles and dust-containing macrophages collect in the lung tissues, causing injury to the lungs.What is smart dust in IoT? ›
Smart Dust consists of sensors at the nanotechnology level that can be deployed in the millions to billions, with a myriad of applications. Smart Dust is both the ultimate instantiation and the ultimate nightmare for IoT. On an individual level, the Smart Dust devices are referred to as MOTES or MEMS.How is Smartdust powered? ›
Powered by battery or kinetic energy and measuring just one cubic millimetre, smart dust could be deployed across vast or hard-to-reach areas.What are the benefits of IoT? ›
- Improved productivity of staff and reduced human labor.
- Efficient operation management.
- Better use of resources and assets.
- Cost-effective operation.
- Improved work safety.
- Thorough marketing and business development.
- Better business opportunities.
- More trustworthy image of the company.
RF communication can be used for smart dust communication but it poses following problems: 1) Size of the Antenna: Since the size of the antenna should be ¼ of the carrier wavelength, if we reduce the size of the antenna (which is very difficult to achieve) the wavelength of the carrier wave will decrease, thus ...What is it called to clean dust? ›
Definition of dusting
1 : the act of making something clean by brushing or wiping away dirt and dust from the surface The furniture needs a good dusting.
Dust gets its name (probably) from the 1984 Melodic/Power/Thrash Metal band “Angel Dust/Angeldust”. The idea is that the attack is 'gonna reduce you to dust! ' Or, if you want a more Narcotic example “Send you 'flyin' like Angel Dust!”How does a dust sensor work? ›
The photo-sensor detects the reflected IR LED light by dust particles in air. The SMART Dust Sensor can detect the small particles like cigarette smoke and it can distinguish small particles like smoke from large house dust by pulse pattern of signal output.Can ultrasonic sensor detect dust? ›
Object shape and surface
Color is of no consequence and they can detect solids, liquids, or powders. Surface properties also have no effect on detection reliability.
Maharbiz and Carmena conceived of the idea of neural dust about five years ago, but attempts to power an implantable device and read out the data using radio waves were disappointing.Why does dust collect so much? ›
There are three potential major causes that can lead to rapid dust development; vacuuming carpeting in a home, cheap air filters in air handling systems throughout this indoor space, and even leaking air ducts will all contribute to dust buildup in this indoor environment.What is smart skin? ›
Artificial smart skin with multisensory devices and system and associated electronics that mimics the properties of human skin such as stretchability, self-healing, dexterity, power efficient computing, etc.How small is nano dust? ›
A nanoparticle is a small particle that ranges between 1 to 100 nanometres in size. Undetectable by the human eye, nanoparticles can exhibit significantly different physical and chemical properties to their larger material counterparts.What is the simple trick to eliminate dust? ›
- Keep it outside. Since most dust comes in from outdoors, a good defense is your best offense here. ...
- Groom your pets in a clean space. ...
- Pack up paper and fabrics. ...
- Change your sheets often. ...
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. ...
- Get an air purifier. ...
- Line tall surfaces with newspaper. ...
- Declutter and cut back on fabrics.
All of the professionals we spoke with suggest dusting tabletops, counters, bookshelves and other smooth surfaces about one a week. They also all agree that the best tool for doing that is a microfiber cloth.What are the disadvantages of smart sensors? ›
- In wired smart sensors, complexity is much higher as a consequence the cost is also high.
- Required use of predefined embedded function during the design of the smart sensor.
- It requires both actuators and sensors.
- Sensor calibration has to be managed by an external processor.
When silica dust particles are less than 10 μm, they will stay airborne for up to several hours until gravity and electrostatic forces help them settle onto surfaces. Of greater importance, at this size, they can easily enter the lungs, where they are even more toxic than coal dust.Does silica stay in your lungs forever? ›
Crystalline silica is a designated known human carcinogen meaning it is a definite cause of cancer in humans. Once you breathe it in it can go deep into your lungs and stay there - permanently scarring and damaging the lung tissue.How much dust does it take to get silicosis? ›
Because silicosis is caused by cumulative or repeated exposure to respirable crystalline silica, it makes sense that we would want to limit exposure as much as possible! OSHA has set the Personal Exposure Limit (PEL) at 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8 hour shift.
The neural dust motes consist of a pair of recording electrodes, a custom transistor, and a piezoelectric sensor. The piezoelectric crystal is capable of recording brain activity from the extracellular space, and converting it into an electrical signal.How do you control dust particles? ›
- Reduce the traffic.
- Reduce the speed.
- Improve road design.
- Water the road (Palliatives-1)
- Cover the Road with gravel.
- Increase moisture content of the road surface (Palliatives-2)
- Bind the road particles together (Palliatives-3)
- Seal unpaved roads.
Lungs are self-cleaning organs that will begin to heal themselves once they are no longer exposed to pollutants. The best way to ensure your lungs are healthy is by avoiding harmful toxins like cigarette smoke and air pollution, as well as getting regular exercise and eating well.How can I clean my lungs? ›
- Do Steam Therapy. Breathe in, breathe out. ...
- Drink Green Tea. Cleaning your lungs may be as simple as sipping hot tea—green tea, specifically. ...
- Invest in an Air Purifier. One way to clean your lungs is to first clean the air you breathe. ...
- Exercise Regularly. ...
- Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods.
Dust ceilings, door frames, baseboards, and other areas in home at least once in a week or once in two weeks to prevent the accumulation of dust that can activate an allergic reaction in your family members. While dusting, be sure to employ a dusting tool that will not just extend the dirt back into the air.What are the 4 layers of IoT? ›
here in this article we will discuss basic fundamental architecture of IoT i.e., 4 Stage IoT architecture. So, from the above image it is clear that there is 4 layers are present that can be divided as follows: Sensing Layer, Network Layer, Data processing Layer, and Application Layer.What is IoT water purifier? ›
IoT provides solutions in the water purification industry through CloudTap. It is a revolutionary RO + UV water purifier that keeps track of the internal working of the purification plant with the help of the Internet and AI. It monitors the purity of water 24*7 and reports water quality in real time.What are the 3 building blocks of IoT? ›
An IoT system comprises four basic building blocks: sensors, processors, gateways, and applications.How is dust charged? ›
When dust is carried on air currents generated by air conditioning and similar devices, the dust takes on a positive or negative static electric charge due to contact with various objects. Dust that has a positive electric charge will be attracted to objects that have a negative electric charge, and vice versa.Does sanding generate airborne dust particles? ›
Air monitoring results confirm that when manufactured wood products are cut or sanded, the only significant airborne hazard is exposure to wood dust.
A Mirror Or Window Polished By A Dry Cloth On A Dry Day Soon Becomes Dusty. When glass is rubbed with a dry cloth, the friction creates charged static electricity; this in turn attracts small non charged particles of dust.What is IoT give 5 examples? ›
Smart Mobiles, smart refrigerators, smartwatches, smart fire alarms, smart door locks, smart bicycles, medical sensors, fitness trackers, smart security system, etc., are few examples of IoT products.How is IoT used in everyday life? ›
Use of IoT is also exploding in the consumer sector. Dishwashers, refrigerators, smart TVs, smart watches, cars and trucks, heating and cooling systems, fitness machines and trackers are examples of IoT-enabled products with which you may have personal experience!› blog › smart-dust-future-glo... ›
Smart Dust Applications - The Future of Global IoT
RF communication can be used for smart dust communication but it poses following problems: 1) Size of the Antenna: Since the size of the antenna should be ¼ of the carrier wavelength, if we reduce the size of the antenna (which is very difficult to achieve) the wavelength of the carrier wave will decrease, thus ...What is smart dust in ubiquitous computing? ›
Smart dust is an emerging technology made up of tiny, wireless sensors or motes which are built into autonomous computing and communication systems packed into a cubic millimeter mote to form the basis of integrated, massively distributed sensor networks.Who invented smart dust? ›
Creating Smart Dust: Kristofer S. J. Pister
In the mid 1990s, Kristofer S. J. Pister created a research proposal for Smart Dust, with Joe Kahn and Bernhard Boser from the University of California, Berkeley. The project was soon approved for funding, and secured Dr. Pister's status as the inventor of Smart Dust.
nanodust (usually uncountable, plural nanodusts) nanoscale dust, especially such atmospheric dust that may be a health hazard, or a source of metals.What is the best method of dust control? ›
Sealing Unpaved Roads with Pavement or Other Impermeable Materials. Paving is the most effective, and most expensive, method to control dust from unpaved roads. Asphalt and Portland concrete provide durable and effective surfaces that prevent the breakdown of soil surfaces.Why was smart dust created? ›
In 1997, the researcher Kristofer Pister coined the term 'smart dust' to describe these millimetre-sized devices. Pister and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, aimed to create a network of sensors made up of tiny wireless computer systems called 'motes'.
The photo-sensor detects the reflected IR LED light by dust particles in air. The SMART Dust Sensor can detect the small particles like cigarette smoke and it can distinguish small particles like smoke from large house dust by pulse pattern of signal output.What is smart in computing? ›
S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology; often written as SMART) is a monitoring system included in computer hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs).How is ubiquitous computing used? ›
Examples of pervasive computing include electronic toll systems on highways; tracking applications, such as Life360, which can track the location of the user, the speed at which they are driving and how much battery life their smartphone has; Apple Watch; Amazon Echo; smart traffic lights; and Fitbit.What are the 3 properties of smart physical objects? ›
The concept smart for a smart physical object simply means that it is active, digital, networked, can operate to some extent autonomously, is reconfigurable and has local control of the resources it needs such as energy, data storage, etc.What is dust in the universe made of? ›
Astronomers are also talking about small grains of material when they talk about dust, but unlike on Earth, a majority of those grains consist of carbon and silicates. These materials are primarily born from the winds of evolved stars or supernova explosions. Astronomers can categorize dust based on where they see it.What is galaxy dust made of? ›
Cosmic dust is made of various elements, such as carbon, oxygen, iron and other atoms heavier than hydrogen and helium. It is the stuff of which planets and people are made, and it is essential for star formation.Is silver nanotechnology safe? ›
In vitro studies demonstrate that nano-silver is toxic to mammalian liver cells, stem cells, and even brain cells. Further, an overwhelming majority of studies report that contact with nano-silver causes abnormalities in basic cell functions.What does nano coating do? ›
Nano-coating, also known as a ceramic coating is the process of applying a surface layer that repels dry particles, water, oil and dirt. They can be found in both liquid and solid form and provide characteristics that are favourable.What is nano-silver coating? ›
Nano-silver (NS) as an excellent antibacterial agent with robust and broad-spectrum bactericidal activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including multi-drug-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) [19, 20].