Three European chemists -- Sir Fraser Stoddart, from Scotland, Bernard Feringa, from the Netherlands, and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, from France, have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016. Their contribution to science is the development of the world’s tiniest machines which are made out of molecules. These machines -- which include molecular elevators, cars, and motors -- are nanometers in size.
“Time has clearly shown the revolutionary effect of miniaturizing computer technology, whereas we have only seen the initial stages of what could result from the miniaturization of machines," said the Nobel Prize committee in a statement.
But what will these molecular machines mean for field service, an area that’s already seen the game-changing effects of mobile, smart machines, and IoT?
Field Service and Nano-Machines
Molecular machines aren’t just for the science world. Using them in field service will be revolutionary, since they react to light exposure by winding up or shrinking. This means that the possibility of developing new batteries or sensors that also react to light will be possible. And given their incredibly tiny size -- they’re one thousand times thinner than a strand of hair -- molecular machines would be able to help repair small circuits in ways that human hands are unable to do.
These nano-machines will one day be invaluable to field service technicians, since these machines can do what others cannot. And since this is still the early phase of development for molecular machines, the possibilities of what they’ll do in the future are endless. So their revolutionary potential is exciting for field service.
Molecular Machines are the Future of Smart Machines
Smart machines have already become a part of many homes and factories. These machines use the Internet of Things to communicate with each other and with technicians. They can alert techs when something is broken and in need of repair. They can also be controlled remotely. But nano-machines take the idea of a smart machine many steps forward, since they are controlled in such a unique way. Imagine a future where battery-powered machines can run forever and factory machines can be switched on and off with a light signal, rather than a button that needs to be pressed manually. Molecular machines are made up of materials than can repair not only themselves, but also other machines in the future.
The Future Field Service Technician
All this discussion about machines that repair themselves can’t help but lead to the question of: “Will service technicians still be needed?” As we’ve seen with IoT and smart machines, technicians will still be needed in the future, but just in a new way. Even if machines are more powerful because they repair themselves, technicians will be needed to install and maintain nano-machines. Start thinking of technicians of the future as if they were a science fiction character. Picture Scotty, the chief engineer on the Star Trek spaceship Enterprise: someone who triggers a machine to do its job. No matter how good the machines are there is still a service crew needed.
Some field service engineers may already come from a science background. But if tech materials of the future will be self-repairing, field service technicians may need new training in chemistry and engineering to work with these machines made of molecules.
Field Service Software’s New Role
When molecular machines come to the market, field service software will play a new role. Companies will still need software that collects transactional data and performance information. Furthermore, field service software could maybe also be a part of triggering these self-repairing molecular machines to do their jobs. Just like the microchip has made computers, televisions, and phones smaller and thinner than their earlier predecessors, it’s exciting to think of what nano-machines will do for factories, medicines, and other machines.
More Info at: "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016". Nobelprize.org.