Just as the steam engine sparked the industrial revolution of the 19th century, nanotechnology will likely ignite a new industrial revolution during the 21st century. Nanotechnology has the potential to impact all industries; the health care and computer industries are already capitalizing on it. New materials are being created that will affect everything from aerospace and energy to recreation and entertainment.

Even more important may be nanoscale machines, devices that function at molecular or even atomic scales. Some pioneers in the field envision the day when nanoscopic robotic submarines will kill off cancers one cell at a time, and foresee nano- scale factories in which tiny arms piece together products molecule by molecule.
And yet, even when discussing such far-out developments, the notion of using an energy source to drive linkages is still a helpful concept in visualizing nanoscale devices. Sure, the sources of energy and the shapes of linkages are still being developed and are open to the designer's imagination.

But the design problems associated with nanoscale devices in many instances are little different from those being tackled by engineers working on microelectromechanical systems. In other cases, however, the solutions to problems that arise at the nanoscale have better analogues in biochemistry or physics than in familiar mechanical engineering.

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