Beam It Up; September 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Stix; 2 Page(s)
Making a telephone or twoway radio the size of a Dick Tracy wristwatch or a Star Trek communicator remains a nettlesome engineering design challenge. Building the transistor-based processor to the requisite size is routine. But the various discrete components needed to tweak the incoming radio signal--the filters and oscillators that select the desired frequencies--complicate greatly the fabrication of truly miniaturized radio devices.
A series of recent research papers from the University of Michigan have described microscopic resonating-beam structures that can serve as radio-frequency- filtering and oscillator elements. Coupled with a signal processor on the same chip, they may help make possible two-way radios, telephones and modems as small and inexpensive as anyone might desire. Tiny, low-power transmitter- receivers might even be dispersed widely around a building. "I don¿t want to mention Star Trek, but this could get us closer to that," says Clark T.-C. Nguyen, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan.