Ant's-Eye View
And you thought cell phones were getting tiny! At the rate he’s going, USC engineer Adam Cohen will be manufacturing electronic devices small enough to fit in the pincers of flies, gnats and mosquitoes.
Cohen’s process – called EFAB (short for electrochemical fabrication) – can mass-produce complex microdevices smaller than the width of a human hair.
A project leader at the USC School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute, Cohen recently used the EFAB process to fabricate a fully-articulated metal chain which, at 290 microns wide, may be the world’s narrowest.
Insects aren’t likely to use EFAB technology, but supermarket clerks will. “The mechanism for a bar-code scanner, which currently costs $50 to $100 to produce, could be mass-produced for less than $1 with EFAB,” Cohen says. Another micro-production candidate: coronary stents (to keep arteries open), formerly $100 a piece, now only $5 with EFAB. Cohen envisions other low-cost gadgetry such as airplane wing actuators (to reduce turbulence) and road sensors (to ease highway congestion or even warn of imminent earthquakes).

– Bob Calverley

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