New MEMS for Monitoring Bridges

HP's new, bigger MEMS sensor promises thousandfold sensitivity improvement

3 min read

5 November 2009—Last week, two rods snapped on California's Bay Bridge, raining debris on three vehicles and forcing officials to close the bridge, a major commuter artery, for a week. The inconvenience was minor compared with the August 2007 bridge collapse in Minnesota, which killed 13 people and injured 145, but both incidents have their roots in the United States' aging bridge infrastructure. Hewlett-Packard Laboratories thinks one way to forestall (or at least monitor) the gradual deterioration of the world's bridges is to pepper them with many thousands of small networked acceleration sensors that could, in theory, provide warnings before catastrophic failure.

The company's grand future vision is called Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE), and today HP Labs announced a technological breakthrough that will become a key part of that vision: new inertial sensing technology that will make digital microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) accelerometers up to 1000 times as sensitive as what's currently available. The sensor is based on HP's MEMS technology, which was first commercialized in the company's inkjet printer cartridges.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The Transistor of 2047: Expert Predictions

What will the device be like on its 100th anniversary?

4 min read
Six men and a woman smiling.

The luminaries who dared predict the future of the transistor for IEEE Spectrum include: [clockwise from left] Gabriel Loh, Sri Samavedam, Sayeef Salahuddin, Richard Schultz, Suman Datta, Tsu-Jae King Liu, and H.-S. Philip Wong.


The 100th anniversary of the invention of the transistor will happen in 2047. What will transistors be like then? Will they even be the critical computing element they are today? IEEE Spectrum asked experts from around the world for their predictions.

Keep Reading ↓Show less