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Radios With Micromachined Resonators

Future wireless designs will replace electronics with precision mechanical components

12 min read
Radios With Micromachined Resonators
Illustration: Harry Campbell

We do love our cellphones. And we hate them, too, of course—when they drop a call, go dead in the middle of a conversation, or simply fail to work in another country. Soon we’ll probably be complaining about other things—perhaps that our handsets can’t receive satellite TV broadcasts or last more than a week on a single charge.

You might guess that better microelectronics will soon provide higher data rates, lower power consumption, and greater flexibility in the types of communication that our handsets can manage. To some extent, that’s true. But transistor advances alone will probably not be enough. The Moore’s Law world of regularly doubling transistor densities has brought us cheap PCs that outperform the multimillion-dollar mainframes of 30 years ago, but those incredible shrinking transistors might not do much to eliminate dropped calls. In this respect, the most significant improvements may, in fact, come from what seems a bizarre source: better mechanical components.

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