Motion Makers

Inexpensive, matchstick-sized devices with no moving parts could serve as cheap, power-efficient substitutes for small electric motors found in consumer products ranging from microwave ovens to cars. These devices-under development by NanoMuscle in Antioch, CA-translate electronic signals into linear motion without the need for bulky magnets, coils, spindles and position sensors. The devices consist of off-the-shelf microprocessors attached to small metal strips, which are connected with wires made of shape memory alloy. (This alloy, used in most cell-phone antennas, changes shape in response to an electrical signal.) In the devices, proprietary software regulates the processor’s electrical signal to achieve a given effect-say, to close a doll’s eyes halfway.

Once production ramps up, the nanomuscles should cost a few dollars each, according to NanoMuscle CEO Rod MacGregor. NanoMuscle has already made headway in the toy market. Hasbro will be using the devices in toys that will be in stores as soon as Christmas 2002. The company has five patents pending; mass production started in August.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.