Skip navigation
E. The Future of Micro ElectroMechanical Systems

Narrator: This is Science Today. Advances in Micro ElectroMechanical Systems, or MEMS, which combine electrical and mechanical components on a computer chip, are giving researchers the opportunity to develop tiny devices that can sense, process and communicate information about its environment. Kris Pister, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, is using this technology to develop what he calls 'smart dust'.

Pister: The goal of the smart dust project is to integrate a sensor and computer and power supply and communication into a cubic millimeter volume. So, we want to make a completely autonomous, remote sensor that's roughly the size of a grain of sand.

Narrator: The next step would be to develop smart dust with legs, or rather synthetic insects, such as a silicon ant.

Pister: One application of that might be in disaster search and rescue, where you could sprinkle your little silicon ants all over collapsed building and have them hunt for survivors, for example.

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