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MIT Technology Review

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  • Vera Sazonova

    Age:
    30

    Microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, play a key role in gyroscopes, tiny chemical sensors, optical switches used in the telecom industry, and more. An even smaller version of the technology–nanoelectromechanica­l systems, or NEMS–could likewise have broad technological importance. Vera Sazonov­a has made the world’s smallest NEMS device: a tiny resonator that consists of a single carbon nanotube suspended over a silicon gate. A voltage at the gate makes the nanotube vibrate, creating a high-frequency current. Since the current is hard to detect, Sazonova applied another voltage at a slightly different frequency; the two signals mix to create a third, low-­frequency current that is easier to pick up. Potential applications include ultrasensitive motion detectors, sensors that can detect the mass of molecules, and even devices for detecting gravitational waves. –Prachi Patel