The Nanodrive Project; The Nanotech Revolution; Exclusive Online Issues; by Peter Vettiger and Gerd Binnig; 8 Page(s)
Many engineers have had the thrill of designing a novel product that then enters mass production and pops up all over the world. We hope-in fact, we would lay better than 50-50 odds on it-that within three years we will experience the rarer pleasure of having launched an entirely new class of machine.
Nanotechnology is much discussed these days as an emerging frontier, a realm in which machines operate at scales of billionths of a meter. Research on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-devices that have microscopic moving parts made using the techniques of computer chip manufacture-has similarly produced a lot of hype and yet relatively few commercial products. But as we can attest, having spent six years so far on one of the first focused projects to create a nanomechanical device suitable for mass production, at such tiny scales, engineering is inextricably melded with scientific research. Unexpected obstacles appear on the road from a proof-of-principle experiment to a working prototype and then on to a product that succeeds in the marketplace.