Technology: The Incredible Shrinking Machine

Breakthroughs in miniaturization could lead to robots the size of a flea

/ To the naked eye, the object mounted on a postage stamp-size wafer and held aloft by a pair of tweezers is all but invisible. Even under a bright light, it looks like nothing more than a speck of dust. But magnified 160 times in an electron microscope, the speck begins to take on shape and function: a tiny gear with teeth the size of blood cells. "You have to be careful when handling these things," warns Kaigham Gabriel, an engineer at AT&T; Bell Laboratories . "I've accidentally inhaled a few right into my lungs."

The miniaturization of technology, having made...

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