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Bicycle Chain for Fleas

Sandia silicon microchain Sandia National Laboratories has engineered the world’s smallest chain. The distance between chain link centers is only 50 microns. In comparison, the diameter of a human hair is approximately 70 microns. This micro-chain has been made on the surface of a silicone substrate using photo-lithographic techniques, just like computer chips are made. It rests on, and is driven by, several micro-gears. Devices like this one that have physically moving parts on a computer chip are called MEMS – Micro Electro Mechanical Systems.

This micro-chain can be used to supply power to multiple parts of a micro system, very much like the drive belt in a 19th-century sewing factory. There, a central engine shaft powered by steam turned drive belts to power distant work stations - for example, sewing machines - before the dawn of the age of electricity. The microchain could also be used to drive microcamera shutters, and in mechanical timing and decoding.

Soon, all the electro-mechanical machines you know of and a host of new ones will be miniaturized and enabled with MEMS technology. Not too long from today, we may have micro-robots that one takes as a pill, which go directly to the problem/disease and fight it with targeted medicine delivery, or which zip around inside of our veins and arteries and clean clogs. On a less practical note, eventually, cats and dogs may have to deal with fleas on bicycles, or even solar driven micro motorcycles. The flea circus will have a whole new meaning.


About the Author

Anton SkorucakAnton Skorucak, MS
Anton Skorucak is a founder and publisher of Anton Skorucak has a Master of Science (MS) degree in physics from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California and a B.Sc. in physics with a minor in material science from the McMaster University, Canada. He is the president and creator of, a comprehensive physics and astronomy online education, research and reference web site.

Further Reading
Mems and Moems
by P. Rai-Choudhury

Related Web Links
World’s smallest microchain drive fabricated at Sandia
by Sandia Labs

A Tutorial in Micromechanics, MEMS, etc.
by Dr. William Trimmer, Standard MEMS, Inc.

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