A new concept of a brain-computer interface has been proposed by engineering researchers at University of California Berkeley, utilizing what they term as ‘neural-dust’, tiny machines that would be implanted in the brain to help facilitate the collection of neurological data.

The tiny components would be powered by piezoelectric materials, of which produce an electric current when compressed, activated by ultrasound waves generated by a transmitter placed on the scalp. The implanted components would have a simple CMOS sensor that would measure the electrical activity being generated by the neurons around it, and re-transmit that back to the sensors on the scalp.

A system like this would solve the issue of inter-cranial implants that would otherwise require replacing when their power supply runs out. The biggest challenge is implanting "dust" in the cortex, however, the authors of the study suggest that this will be possible. The particles would be attached to the tips of a fine wire array and dipped into the cortex where they would become embedded. Once implanted, the dust would last a lifetime.

Dust would be able to collect data on brain function and possibly to influence brain activity in many different ways. It is also possible that information could be transmitted directly into the brain using such a system.