Skip to Content

Micromachines and the Cosmos

Filters will bring out faint infrared radiation from the early universe.

Understanding the formation of the universe requires scrutinizing very faint infrared signals that tend to be overwhelmed by nearer, brighter light sources. Now, engineers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center have designed a light filter with 62,415 micrometer-scale shutters that allows scientists to select the objects they wish to study and block everything else. The shutters are made of silicon nitride, and any one or hundreds of them can be opened or closed by a magnet and electronics controlled by a computer system that encodes a digital map of the cosmos. The microshutter system will sit atop a camera, called the Near Infrared Spectrograph, as part of the James Webb Space Telescope destined for launch in 2013.

Surrounded by microelectronics, a chip’s 62,415 silicon nitride microshutters appear as a dark square.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.