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With summer in full swing, more people are gearing up to go fishing. While MEMS and nanotechnology can't guarantee that you'll catch more fish, they're certainly making the experience a lot more high-tech.
June 19th, 2007
As part of my weekly podcast, I have on ongoing listener's challenge in which I've asked people to come up with random items from everyday life and challenge me to find the MEMS or nanotech connection.
I especially like this week's topic, which is fishing. Not necessarily because I like to fish (although deep sea fishing is kind of fun), but because I think it's interesting where and how MEMS and nanomaterials are being used. But, if you've been listening to my podcast on a regular basis, you shouldn't be too surprised that both technologies are indeed playing a role. So, what do you typically take with you to go fishing? Fishing poles, of course, bait, and perhaps even an electronic fish finder.
Fishing poles and bait are the domain of nanomaterials. A company by the name of ULVAC created a lot of buzz almost a year ago when they introduced a line of fishing lures whose colorful, holographic paint effect comes courtesy of the use of nano-thin films. The company's main business is actually semiconductor equipment—the lures were simply created as a way to promote some of their process capabilities. The lures have been pretty popular, but unfortunately, are still only available in Japan.
I haven't come across any regular fishing poles that use nanomaterials, but there are several fly fishing rods that are now made of nanocomposites. The result is a rod that's both lighter and stronger. I've never heard of a pole breaking while pulling in a fish, but I suppose it could happen. (I know lines break all the time, which makes me wonder why is it that there aren't any fishing lines made of a nanocomposite?) Due to the nature of fly fishing, where you're constantly casting the line, a lighter fishing rod means that you won't get tired as fast. Or at least that's the theory.
Going back to regular fishing, if you're a fan of taking a boat out to fish in the middle of a lake, then it's possible that you take a fish finder with you. Today's fish finders are seriously sophisticated. The days of simple sonar bounced off the bottom of the lake are long gone; now these pieces of equipment include incredibly detailed displays and colorful, life-size fish to help attract other fish. But more importantly, GPS (global positioning services) technology is an integral part of the system so that you can track where you are. This way, if you find an especially good spot, you can go back to it another time or re-orient yourself in the even you drift too far away. Here, MEMS magnetic compasses are used to make the GPS system more accurate as part of a dead reckoning feature.
Of course, there are a lot of other peripheral things used in conjunction with fishing—boats, sunscreen, coolers of your favorite drink, even clothes—all of which do rely on both MEMS sensors and nanomaterials. This ranges from gyro sensors to keep boats stabilized (no more motion sickness!) to aerogels that help your drinks stay cold. You can even benefit from moisture wicking properties in certain t-shirts so that you feel cool and comfortable pulling in that enormous, record-breaking fish that inevitably gets away.
This article is a transcript of the Bourne Report Podcast #49.
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