An army expression says: ‘If your product is room-size, make it desk-size; if it is desk-size make it portable. When you can’t shrink it any more, pack twice as much power into it. For industry in general we can say: “Make it smaller and lighter in weight.�

Lap-top computers and palm pilot PCs are examples of miniaturization. Palm V succeeds Palm III, the earlier model. It costs around $450. It uses a rechargeable battery, which lasts about 21 hours between two charges.

Yet it isn’t always so. Not everyone has to miniaturize. A half-size bed isn’t much good to a full-sized person. And a desk has to stay desk-size and a book, book size. Typewriter and calculators cannot be made smaller beyond a certain extent, or else we won’t be able to use them.

But even where you can’t miniaturization the whole product, it may be paying to miniaturize the parts. Miniaturization is very important in electronics.

Miniaturization is partly design and partly research. No one could make a finger nail-size hearing aid, for example, until germanium came out of research. The miniature products using germanium had to be developed, and finally, they had to be incorporated into the hearing aids.

Miniaturization always results in using less material (but it may be more expensive material). Saving space and weight is the main idea, particularly in air planes, space rockets, automation components and instrumentation.

There is more and more miniaturization on account of the developing science of micro-electronics. The revolution dates back to 1947 when transistor was developed as a major component in the micro-electronic circuit. Some 15 years ago, the dimension of a transistor was one micron (millionth of a meter- A single hair is 50 microns wide).It was since then reduced to 10th of that. We now speak in terms of nanos (a billionth of a meter, 10 times the size of an atom). Since the devices depend on the flow of electrons, the smaller they are, the lesser is the traveling distance and the better they work.

Computer chips now have more capability due to reduced sizes. The photolithography process uses a laser beam (or electron beam). The sharper the beam, the finer are the components. More is packed in a given surface.

We can build certain devices atom-by-atom. The STM: Scanning, Tunneling Microscope is compact but powerful enough to see an atom. It can examine surfaces, like that of silicon at atomic level. STM is also used as a shovel to pick up clumps of silicon atoms and move them to another site.

Molecular Man

IBM scientists made a molecular man by spraying molecules of CO onto a platinum surface and then dragging them into shape using the STM tip. The molecular man was 20 atoms wide (To surround a single strand of hair 100,000 such men will be needed).

Further Miniaturization

IC’s will shrink further as a result of this experiment. They will shrink further by 500 times. Nano-structures can be built atom by atom. Molecular-sized nano-machines can be created to carry out repairs and do genetic engineering in human body.

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