MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) have the versatility to solve specialized problems, and the demonstration of that versatility continues at Sandia National Laboratories. Researchers there have devised an advanced gas-sampling procedure using picoliters of gas to check whether the atmosphere inside a MEMS device is pure.
A small commercial valve crushes a tiny object—the MEMS chip under investigation—and feeds the released gases to a custom-built intake manifold. Because the test mechanism requires only picoliters of gas, it can re-evaluate dozens of times, using bursts of puffs of gas that it receives. This repetition increases the final test's validity due to the repeated sampling and testing during a 20-minute period, compared with the uncertain validity of a single test and result.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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