Five years ago, DARPA challenged researchers to create a vacuum system smaller than a cubic centimeter and powered by just a quarter Watt of energy. This week, DARPA announced the program's success. Researchers at University of Michigan, MIT, and Honeywell International have each demonstrated penny-sized micromachines that pave the way for scaled-down chemical sensors.
When the project started in 2008, the goal was to create a smaller chemical sensor, useful for detecting chemical weapons. Mass spectrometers are devices that identify chemicals by using vacuums to measuring their mass.