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MEMS 2002 Conference also looks at nanoscale devices

Amid the conference focused on microdevices, some interesting nanotech-related news emerged from the MEMS 2002 Conference co-sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Robotics and Automation Society, and held 20-24 January 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A good general overview of the conference appeared on the Small Times website ("Record numbers at MEMS conference", by Jane Fried, 22 January 2002). Some of the highlights include:

  • United Press International filed an interesting report ("Molecular motors could help research", by Scott R. Burnell, 21 January 2002) on an address by invited speaker Carlo Montemagno, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles and a staff researcher at the California NanoSystems Institute, described the motors and other microscopic devices to a conference on microelectromechanical systems or MEMS. The article is reposted on the Small Times site. "We've just started a project looking at … having small sensors locomote themselves where you want them to go," Montemagno said.
    An interesting point raised in the UPI article was raised by Marlene Bourne, a technology research analyst, who said the biggest hurdle will be moving the devices to clinical applications. "If you start talking about machines in people's bodies, we're getting to the point where there will be some real questions about educating the public," Bourne told UPI. "(Another question is) do we need regulation in terms of how these (motors) will be used, for what purpose, and who gets to benefit from it?" Other roadblocks include working with the motors in a real-world environment, Montemagno said. They currently are limited to water-based solutions. Once the questions are resolved, however, the devices could reach the point of delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells, Bourne said.
  • Another UPI report ("Micro pump works without moving parts ", by Scott R. Burnell, 21 January 2002) describes work by Michael DeBar, a scientist with Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y., who developed the idea of a "thermocapillary pump" while at the University of California at Berkeley. The article also is reposted on the Small Times site.

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