MEMS and Nanotech

Boston Globe writes about the small things that are going to be making a big difference in tomorrow’s world: “micro-electronic mechanical systems, or MEMS, which builds at the micron level, or millionths of a meter, and nanotechnology, which works with materials measured in the billionths of a meter, or nanometers. Together, these emerging sectors are known as ”tiny technology.” Many engineers, futurists, and technologists believe it could become the type of transformational technology — like the Internet — that leads to broad commercial and social changes.”

Nanotechnology, which involves the manipulation of atoms and molecules to create new materials and machines invisible to the naked eye, has applications for a broad array of industries, from plastics to electronics to medicine. Already, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs are suggesting products such as ”smart” pills, tiny computerized drug delivery systems that are implanted under the skin and dole out precise doses of medicine at the right time; tiny generators that would last 20 times longer than batteries and could be refueled instead of thrown out; and microchemical processors to make small amounts of chemicals on site and avoid the costs and hazards of storing and shipping toxic materials.

In much of the 20th century, Martin Schmidt, director of MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories, noted recently, engineering seemed driven to make things bigger: bigger buildings, bigger airplanes, bigger bridges. But now, at the beginning of the 21st century, he said, ”a lot of the excitement is about making increasingly small things.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.