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a microscopic gear and actuator in a MEMS (microelectromechanical system) device. A tiny actuator moves back and forth in a ratcheting motion that drives the rotation of a microscopic ring gear. To track the actuator's motion, researchers attached fluorescent particles to the actuator. Using the light-emitting particles, researchers were able to track displacements as small as billionths of a meter, and rotations as tiny as several millionths of a radian at a rate of 1000 times per second. Credit: Jennifer Lauren Lee/NIST

How microscopic machines can fail within seconds?

To what extent can tiny gears and other microscopic moving parts last before they destroy? What are the warning signs that these segments are...