This article discusses how researchers are reducing friction in MEMS devices using a very old solution in a new size. In the mid-1990s, the idea that microscale engines could soon be propelling flying skateboards did not seem so far-fetched, because MEMS devices were quickly moving from the laboratory to the marketplace. Researchers had been making the progress needed to produce millimeter-scale turbines to overcome the dilemma. By the mid-1990s, researchers at MIT had built the first air bearing on the microscale. Beginning in the early 2000s, Ghodssi and a research team at Maryland’s MEMS Sensors and Actuators Laboratory that included Matthew McCarthy and Mike Waits began investigating just how to incorporate ball bearings into MEMS devices. Ghodssi is also interested in using ball bearings to support rotating MEMS involved in precision applications. The bearings can provide low-friction support to devices such as sensors that need to rotate just a few degrees at a time.

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