Scientists from A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), led by Professor Christian Joachim, have scored a breakthrough in nanotechnology by becoming the first in the world to invent a molecular gear of the size of 1.2nm whose rotation can be deliberately controlled. This achievement marks a radical shift in the scientific progress of molecular machines and is published in Nature Materials, one of the most prestigious journals in materials science.
Said Prof Joachim, “Making a gear the size of a few atoms is one thing, but being able to deliberately control its motions and actions is something else altogether. What we’ve done at IMRE is to create a truly complete working gear that will be the fundamental piece in creating more complex molecular machines that are no bigger than a grain of sand.”
Prof Joachim and his team discovered that the way to successfully control the rotation of a single-molecule gear is via the optimization of molecular design, molecular manipulation and surface atomic chemistry. This was a breakthrough because before the team’s discovery, motions of molecular rotors and gears were random and typically consisted of a mix of rotation and lateral displacement. The scientists at IMRE solved this scientific conundrum by proving that the rotation of the molecule-gear could be wellcontrolled by manipulating the electrical connection between the molecule and the tip of a Scanning Tunnelling Microscope while it was pinned on an atom axis.
The tendency in electronic devices is all about getting smaller and smaller and smaller. It’s just the way these things need to be. However, they also have to be very efficient and we have nanotechnology and carbon nanotubes to make them like this. In order to develop smaller and more efficient electronics, scientists want to develop the next generation of devices based on carbon nanotubes using a technique called “chemical vapor deposition”, but it’s very hard to manipulate these structures and to bring them to a useful state.
A new vision is needed to complete the next-gen electronics and thanks to a breakthrough from scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, our future devices could be built from carbon nanotubes. The team of scientists led by professor Yongfeng Lu and postdoctoral researcher Yunshen Zhou, used a technique based on the so-called “optical near-field effects” and they managed to control the growth of carbon nanotubes. The researchers linked individually self-aligned carbon nanotubes with sharp-tipped electrodes, a process which is very different from previous techniques where the carbon nanotubes were manipulated after growth.
“With our method, there’s no requirement for expensive instrumentation and no requirement for tedious processes. It’s a one-step process. We call it ’self-aligning growth.’ The carbon nanotubes ‘know’ where to start growth. In previous efforts, they could only manipulate carbon nanotubes one piece at a time, so they had to align the carbon nanotubes one by one. For our approach using optical near-field effects, all locations with sharp tips can accommodate carbon nanotube growth. That means we can make multiple carbon nanotubes at a time and all of them will be self-aligned,” said professor Lu.
Magicians have long created the illusion of levitating objects in the air. Now researchers have actually levitated an object, suspending it without the need for external support. Working at the molecular level, the researchers relied on the tendency of certain combinations of molecules to repel each other at close contact, effectively suspending one surface above another by a microscopic distance.
Researchers from Harvard University and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have measured, for the first time, a repulsive quantum mechanical force that could be harnessed and tailored for a wide range of new nanotechnology applications.
The study, led by Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), will be published as the January 8 cover story of Nature.
The discovery builds on previous work related to what is called the Casimir force. While long considered only of theoretical interest, physicists discovered that this attractive force, caused by quantum fluctuations of the energy associated with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, becomes significant when the space between two metallic surfaces, such as two mirrors facing one another, measures less than about 100 nanometers.
What if your computer had a brain, one that worked like our very own grey matter?
It sounds like science fiction, but with incredible advancements in the fields of neuroscience, nanotechnology and supercomputing technology, the time is right for computer scientists to begin trying to create computers that are able to approach the brain’s abilities.
So what would that mean for tomorrow’s computers? It’s a tantalising question that scientists working in the field of cognitive computing are striving to answer. And, if they’re successful in their goal of ousting silicon from the PC and inserting a brain, we could witness a revolution in computing power and potential. Tomorrow’s computers may be able to think rather than just follow programs.
IBM Research on Thursday is expected to uncover work it is doing to bring the brain’s processing power to computers, in an effort to make it easier for PCs to process vast amounts of data in real time.
The researchers want to put brain-related senses like perception and interaction into hardware and software so that computers are able to process and understand the data quicker while consuming less power, said Dharmendra Modha, a researcher at IBM. The researchers are bringing the neuroscience, nanotechnology, and supercomputing fields together in an effort to create the new computing platform, he said.
The goal is to create machines that are mind-like and adapt to changes, which could allow companies to find more value in their data. Right now, a majority of information’s value is lost, but relevant data can allow businesses or individuals to make rapid decisions in time to have significant impact, he said.
“If we could design computers that could be in real-world environments and sense and respond in an intelligent way, it would be a tremendous step forward,” Modha said.
There is a problem in the core philosophy of computing and a new approach is needed, Modha said. Today’s model first defines objectives to solve problems, after which algorithms are built to achieve those objectives.
“The brain is the opposite. It starts with an existing algorithm and then problems [are] second. It is a computing platform that can address a wide variety of problems,” Modha said.
For example, the new approach could help efficiently manage the world’s water supplies through real-time analysis of data that could help discover new patterns, Modha said. A network of sensors could monitor temperature, pressure, wave height and ocean tide across the oceans. “Imagine streaming this data to a global brain that discovers invariant patterns and associations that no algorithms of today can do,” Modha said.
It will also be able to sense the world’s markets, like stocks, bonds and real estate, extracting patterns and associations in the way the brain extracts information from those environments.
Also see IBM to Build “Thinking” Computers Modeled on the Brain and IBM plans ‘brain-like’ computers.
A new invention could revolutionize solar energy – and it was made by a 12-year-old in Beaverton.
Despite his age, William Yuan has already studied nuclear fusion and nanotechnology, and he is on his way to solving the energy crisis.
It all started with Legos – after he learned nanotechnology to make robots take off. The seventh grader then got an idea inspired by the sun.
“Solar it seems underused, and there are only a few problems with it,” Yuan said.
Encouraged by his Meadow Park Middle School science teacher, the 12-year-old developed a 3D solar cell.
“Regular solar cells are only 2D and only allow light interaction once,” he said.
And his cell can absorb both visible and UV light.
“I started to realize I was actually onto something,” Yuan said.
At first, he couldn’t believe his calculations.
“This solar cell can’t be generating this much electricity, it can’t be absorbing this much extra light,” he recalled thinking.
If he is right, solar panels with his 3D cells would provide 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells and nine times more than cutting-edge 3D solar cells.
It’s amazing that you can make this sort of discoveries in calculations only.
Just like Einstein, this kid couldn’t believe the outcome of his own calculations.
Einstein’s calculations turned out to be correct. Let’s hope this kid will have the same destiny.
Finally experiments have been funded to test the viability of diamond mechanosynthesis as described in detail by Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle. This is a major step towards achieving the long held vision of molecular nanotechnology as envisioned by Eric Drexler.
Professor Philip Moriarty of the Nanoscience Group in the School of Physics at the University of Nottingham (U.K.) has been awarded a five-year £1.67M ($3.3M) grant by the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to perform a series of laboratory experiments designed to investigate the possibility of diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS). DMS is a proposed method for building diamond nanostructures, atom by atom, using the techniques of scanning probe microscopy under ultra-high vacuum conditions. Moriarty’s project, titled “Digital Matter? Towards Mechanised Mechanosynthesis,” was funded under the Leadership Fellowship program of EPSRC. Moriarty’s experiments begin in October 2008.
This is an important step for nanotechnology.
Within about 10 years, you might be drinking anti-aging enzymes with your bottled water. California biochemists have a plan to keep the world younger and healthier by using nanotech to deliver an enzyme called CoQ10 to our drinking water. This coenzyme is naturally produced by the body, but in smaller and smaller amounts as we age. And yet it’s vital for the body’s basic functioning, as it helps our cells convert sugars to energy. Perhaps if we boost its presence in our bodies as we age, our organs will remain productive and healthy for much longer.
Making people healthier and younger, without them knowing about it.
How clever. 😉
We can only hope that bionanotech will eventually also increase the nutritional value of our daily foods.
I eagerly await the day where cheap meat, mass-cloned from vat, contains nothing but healthy fats, carbs and proteins.