The design, development and manufacturing of revolutionary products such as the automobile, airplane and computer owe a great deal of their success to the large-scale material testing systems (MTS) that have provided engineers and designers with a fundamental understanding of the mechanical behavior of various materials and structures.
In the world of nanotechnology, however, where the mechanical characterization of materials and structures takes place on the scale of atoms and molecules, the existing material testing systems are useless. The development of a universal nanoscale material testing system (n-MTS), which could fit in existing electron microscopes (instruments that can magnify images approximately one million times) and possess the resolution and accuracy needed to mechanically test nanoscale objects, has been a major challenge within the scientific community.
Now researchers at Northwestern University have designed and built the first complete micromachine that makes possible the investigation of nanomechanics phenomena in real time. The findings are published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The machine, which can fit in tiny spaces as required by in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM), successfully characterized the mechanical properties of nanowires and carbon nanotubes.
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
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