The Burj Khalifa? The International Space Station? The Airbus A380 super-jumbo? Sure, they’re big, and sure, we’re impressed, but size isn’t everything; sometimes it’s the tiniest goods that rock our world. To show just how much, we’ve taken a look at some miniature innovations having a ginormous impact.
Microchips, aka integrated circuits, aka tiny little electronic kits made up of transistors, resistors, capacitors and diodes on silicon wafers, are no bigger than a fingernail, and yet they’ve made possible the world of computers and mobile tech that we call home. The transistors themselves are so small that you could fit hundreds of then into one red blood cell, and the chips have to made in special clean rooms – even one dead skin cell could ruin a chip. And there’s one of these inside almost every piece of electronic kit you own!
Miniature tech has definitely revolutionised the medical world – nanotechnology allows surgeons to use devices like the endoscopy capsule to conduct exploratory procedures. These capsules, the size of vitamin tablets, contain tiny wireless cameras; you swallow the capsule and the camera travels through your gut, taking hundreds of pictures that are then used to diagnose conditions like cancer, Crohn’s disease or coeliac disease.
NASA and the European Space Agency are looking at small tech as a way of reducing the costs of space exploration, which will allow more countries to get into the extra-terrestrial game. They’ve got projects on the go like space-suits incorporating protein-based nanounits which could carry and administer emergency drugs for injured astronauts – and microchip-sized spacecrafts!
With oil reserves ever diminishing and everybody hunting for green alternatives, it might soon be the era of the nanogenerators. Scientists are hard at work developing these miniscule gadgets – little devices that generate electricity by yoking the energy of naturally-occurring movements like heartbeats or the shifting of clothing. Boffins at the Georgia Institute of Technology are even busy producing a power-generating artificial skin. Cosy!
Smartphones like the Lumia 920 are packed with miniature marvels. One that’s made a huge impact on our lives is the camera. In 2004, the camera module in the Nokia N90 lens was a mere 13mm for a two megapixel resolution. Now Carl Zeiss camera lenses are less than half that size, and the resolution is four times higher. The result. More people taking and sharing more stunning photos than at any time in history. In fact, according to research by a 1000memories, in 2011, we snapped over 375 billion pics!
Small tech has already made a huge impact on our lives, but which tiny wonders do you think will make the biggest difference in the years to come? Let us know in the comments below.