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Local Scientist Develops X-Ray Cellphone that Detects Medical Conditions

Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 | 5:04 am

X-ray vision on cellphones, circuits that repair themselves and low-cost portable diagnostic devices that detect medical conditions are only some of the technology involving high-speed integrated circuits that will be discussed in a lecture on Wednesday, January 29.

Caltech Electrical Engineering professor Ali Hajimiri will present “1+1=3 or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Holistic Circuits” at Caltech-Beckman Auditorium at 8:00 p.m.

Hajimiri, who has almost 70 patents and several other studies in the works, said Caltech High-speed Integrated Circuits group and their associated Microelectronics Laboratories are developing technology devices that are useful in people’s every day lives.

“They are in the general area of applications of integrated circuits for communications, sensing, detection, projection technology and medical applications,” Hajimiri said.

He stated that the principle of holistic circuits is to use a large number of small components to work together coherently.

“We’re moving from this mentality of a giant elephant resolving a problem to an army of mice,” he said. “The principle is the ability to have these small components but a large number of them working in counter and acting together in a very coherent fashion.”

One of his projects is the low-cost terahertz (THz) “imagers” that can eventually produce cellphone X-ray or T-ray vision.

“The idea was that it could make a powerful source of terahertz radiation which doesn’t have the detrimental damages of x-rays,” he said.

Hajimiri said silicon chips, which are being used for cellphone x-ray technology, have come a long way from the days of early transistors. A single chip can now contain billions of transistors operating at extremely high frequencies.

Because of these developments in technology, Caltech is able to create several projects including self-healing circuits.

“We came up with a methodology and a new technology that allows us to make systems that can identify failures and heal themselves,” Hajimiri said.

When asked how the circuits fix themselves, Hajimiri compared it to the self-healing features of a human body.

“If a part of our body gets damaged or hurt, the rest of the body essentially tries to compensate with that loss,” he said.

Hajimiri said the technological advancements on computers do not mean human thinking will be replicated, but will rather complement each other.

Caltech is also developing a project that will bend light by mechanical means.  This technology will enable faster video uploading and file downloading, Hajimiri said.

His lecture will also include demonstrations of the  developments and inventions the department is working on. The forum is part of the Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series.

Admission is free of charge.

Hajimiri joined Caltech in 1998, where he is a Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of Microelectronics Laboratory. His research projects include high-speed and high-frequency integrated circuits for applications in sensors, biomedical devices, photonics and communication systems.

He received his B.S. degree in Electronics Engineering from the Sharif University of Technology, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

Caltech-Beckman Auditorium is located at 1200 East California Blvd. For more information, call (626) 395-6811 or visit

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