posted on August 13, 2013 |
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Artificial human enhancement has been a staple of science fiction for decades. Recent developments at Tel Aviv American University (TAU) point to a future where MEMS might enable all manner of human enhancement.
MEMS, or Micro Electo-Mechanical Systems, are extremely small devices created on the nanoscale. Although MEMS can be found in a number of applications, from refrigerators to bomb detonators, they’ve yet to be manufactured in a way that can interact with fickle human tissue. That is until now.
Under the supervision of Professor Yosi Chacham-Diamond, a handful of TAU doctoral candidates are creating a “novel micro-printing process that works a highly flexible and non-toxic organic polymer.” Translated, that means that the TAU team’s MEMS can be safely and comfortably used in the human body.
Key to the teams new technology is a polymer created by French chemical producer Arkema/Piezotech. What sets the French material apart from MEMS’ traditional silicon base is the fact that it’s “hundreds of times more flexible than conventional materials.” Add to that a number of undisclosed proprietary properties and you’ve got yourself a possibly revolutionary material.
According to Leeya Engels, a researcher on the team, “[Arkema/Piezotech] just gave us the material and asked us to see what devices we could create with it." Engels gleefully continued, “This field is like Legos for grownups."
While the TAU team is currently focused on developing applications for the medical community, Engels admits, “The use of new, soft materials in micro devices stretches both the imagination and the limits of technology".
Now that a material base for bio-compatible MEMS has been established, the TAU team will begin employing 3D printers to create functional sensors and actuators from the material. If successful the TAU teams’ research could lead to advances in medical diagnostics in the near term, and unimagined human enhancements down the road.
And before anybody says it in the comments, we know that X-ray vision would be creepy.
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