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C. A Smart Device for the Future

Narrator: This is Science Today. In the near future, robotic, airborne sensors the size of a grain of sand may be able to transmit an accurate picture of the atmosphere. Kris Pister, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, says this is based on integrated circuit technology - the same technology used to make computer chips.

Pister: There's a new family of processes that are called MEMS, or Micro ElectroMechanical Systems. That allows us to actually make sensors and little motors right alongside the integrated circuits. And so we can make on a single chip, something that has the ability to sense the environment, to think about it and to take some kind of action on it as well.

Narrator: One of the actions it can take is to communicate.

Pister: So we have the ability to transmit information and to receive information all from this little sliver of silicon. So, one of the things we're doing is making these things small enough so that they will actually float in air. And so you can imagine making little weather sensors that sense perhaps temperature or humidity or barometric pressure and making millions of them and scattering them in the atmosphere.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.