Just as it's starting to seem like MEMS motion sensor technology is gaining more widespread use, we're now hearing rumblings of activity from the developers of its eventual successor: NEMS (Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems). To contextualize this discussion (and to give laypeople a shot at understanding), MEMS sensors are the magic behind the Wii MotionPlus as well as a stunning tech demo recently conducted on a Toshiba TG01. The nascent nano version promises even greater sensitivity, and now scientists from TU Delft in the Netherlands claim they have successfully measured the influence of a single electron on an 800nm-long carbon nanowire. Just detecting such an event is a feat in itself, while the ability to measure its effects can be used in a huge range of ways: from transportation and medicine to ultra-sensitive gaming controllers. While accurate comparisons between the Dutch breakthrough and current generation sensors cannot yet be drawn, we can confidently say that this marks an important step toward making our dreams of playing a nanoscale piano a gargantuan reality.

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NEMS takes step forward, MEMS looking nervously over shoulder