First came micromachines--engines about the size of a grain of sand. Now there are microtransmissions. Fabricated by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, they remarkably augment the power of the tiny engines. Looking through a microscope one would see a spindly, one-millimeter-thick Allen wrench passed over a microtransmission. The sight resembles the huge alien space ship that darkened and then covered New York in the movie "Independence Day." Despite its size, a microtransmission can increase the power of its microengine by a factor of 3 million, theoretically generating enough force to move a one-lb object, says researchers Steve Rodgers and Jeff Sniegowski. The microtransmissions operate on the same principle that allows a multigear bicycle to be pedaled up a steep hill more easily than a single-speed bike: No more input force is used, but a the force is applied over a shorter portion of the wheel's turn. The 3 million:1 Sandia microtransmission comprises six identical transmission systems, each with two dual-level gears. The two gears, crafted one atop the other, operate at ratios of 3:1 and 4:1, which together form a 12:1 gear reduction ratio. A coupling gear allows more gear sets to be added in modules. E-mail Paul McWhorter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everyone has had the experience of trying to scrape the last of the peanut butter or mayonnaise from the bottom of a glass jar without getting your hand sticky. Inventor Ron Jidmar thinks he has a solution to all of that nonsense with a flexible jar design that can be squeezed with one hand to lift contents from the bottom to the top of a jar or container, leaving the other hand free to scoop the contents out cleanly.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.