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Made of Flexible Plastic; Arm’s New Chips Could Be the Ultimate Goal of the Internet of Things

Arm and PragmaIC Developed a Flexible Processor Composed of Plastic.

PlasticArm is a microprocessor created by Arm researchers that consist of flexible plastic. But with flexibility comes complexity, at least with this microprocessor. It has a 32-bit CPU, 456 bytes of ROM, and 128 bytes of RAM. It has approximately 18,000 logic gates, which is at least 12 times more than the prior plastic-based chip. It also has the significant lobes of a computer brain: processor, memory, controller, inputs, and outputs. The chip is more flexible as it consists of plastic, according to the researchers, and might shape the future known as the ‘Internet of Everything,’ in which microprocessors are employed in ordinary objects like clothing and food packaging. With the PlasticArm project, Arm Research and PragmatIC have been pioneering research in this field, and have given fascinating new details on progress in an article published in Nature.

Silicon has been the base element of semiconductors since the dawn of digital computing. That’s because silicon is the second-most abundant element on the planet, which means it’s both inexpensive and plentiful and can work as both an energy conductor and an energy insulator, depending on the circumstances. However, silicon is not ideal for all computing environments. One of its key drawbacks is that it is brittle, making it difficult to merge into biology. And, while silicon is cost-effective for long-lasting things like computers and cellphones, it is not cost-effective for disposable items. The PlasticArm processor is designed to overcome these restrictions.

The principal motivation of this technology is not to create increasingly complicated circuitry, but to make smart patches for wound care and healthcare applications, identity, and lineage monitoring, safety or freshness indicators for fast-moving consumer products, waste management, and packaging recycling are some of the more fundamental applications of these plastic chips.

It is called the world’s most complex flexible integrated circuit made with metal-oxide TFTs by researchers. Thin-film transistors, often known as TFTs, enable the creation of CPUs on flexible surfaces. Building on plastic instead of silicon would allow chip producers to produce chips at a lower cost and use them in more innovative ways. Bottles, food packaging, clothes, wearable patches, and bandages are just a few examples of flexible processor uses. Smart milk jugs could alert you when your milk gets spoiled in the future, or a wearable patch could analyze your vitals. 

Plastic-based processors have significant limitations and will almost probably not be able to replace silicon computers soon. In terms of energy consumption, density, and performance, they’re just ineffective. PlasticArm, for instance, uses 21 milliwatts of power, but 99 percent of it is squandered, with only 1% being used for computing.

Reporter: Imaaz Nadeem

Written by: Mishaal Muzaffar

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