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Paper Accelerometer Could Mean Disposable Devices

Harvard lab’s paper MEMS could cost pennies and put motion sensors on mundane things

3 min read
Photo: Xinyu Liu/Harvard University
Photo: Xinyu Liu/Harvard University

Tiny microscale accelerometers revolutionized car air-bag deployment systems in the mid-1990s. Costing a few dollars apiece and just a few millimeters wide, these sensitive microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices carved from silicon replaced a bulky, multicomponent deployment system that used to cost more than US $50.

Now researchers at Harvard have fashioned a MEMS force sensor that's so cheap it could be disposable. It's made from paper, and each one costs four cents. The team presented the design and experimental results of the device at the IEEE MEMS 2011 conference last week.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan
LightGreen

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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