Five years ago, DARPA challenged researchers to create a vacuum system smaller than a cubic centimeter and powered by just a quarter-Watt of energy. This week, DARPA announced the program's success. Researchers at University of Michigan, MIT, and Honeywell International have each demonstrated penny-sized micromachines that pave the way for scaled-down chemical sensors.
Now that the tiny vacuums exist, it will be fascinating to see where they turn up. The original goal of a chemical detector fits with DARPA's military focus: a mass spectrometer built around these new vacuums could fit on a micro-drone, creating a hard-to-detect and easy-to-maneuver craft designed to sniff out chemical weapons.
Another possibility, once the technology becomes cheap enough, will be incorporation into consumer electronics. DARPA programmer Andrei Shkel anticipates better atomic clocks, which need vacuums to function.
Source: popsci.comAdded: 10 June 2013