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Nanodevices at One-Hundredth the Cost

By MIT News

December 22, 2015

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Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), which are widely used in mobile and other devices, are usually manufactured in large, multi-million-dollar fabrication facilities. The cost of such facilities has limited the kind and variety of MEMS that are readily available and keeps the costs of MEMS relatively high. However, in a recent paper, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology describe a method of inexpensively producing one particular kind of MEMS using a desktop fabrication system.

The researchers used a desktop device built around electrospray emitters--tiny devices that emit fluids when subjected to strong electric fields--to build a MEMS gas sensor that performed as well, if not better, than commercially-produced sensors, but cost only a few cents to produce.

The method used to produce the gas sensor could potentially produce other MEMS, including ones that use biological components.

In a second paper, the researchers describe using a three-dimensional (3D) printer to produce plastic electrospray emitters that performed just as well as the commercially-produced emitters the researchers used to build their MEMS gas sensor.

The findings suggest MEMS could be inexpensively manufactured by desktop systems, which could themselves be inexpensively produced using 3D printers.

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