Much of the technological progress of the past half-century has been driven by ever-increasing miniaturization. Every 18 months, the amount of space occupied by electronic components has been reduced by half. The small size of computers has made possible life-extending technologies such as the pacemaker. Now, computers are not just microscopic (measured in millionths of an inch) but nanoscopic (measured in billionths of an inch). This extreme miniaturization could allow for the development of revolutionary new medical devices.
MEMS, or microelectromechanical systems, is the field of small, electricity-powered, mechanical devices. For nanotechnology to work, it is important to be able to use electronics to physically manipulate objects at the nano-level. That is where MEMS comes in, allowing computer instructions to be transferred to nano-sized machines.