The behavior of air bubbles in ordinary breakfast syrup demonstrates how scientists might be able to make vanishingly thin tubes and fibers for biomedical and other applications.
Previous experiments conducted in Sidney Nagels laboratory at the University of Chicago showed how to make liquid threads that measure only 10 microns in diameter (approximately one-fifth the diameter of a human hair). Now his Chicago colleague Wendy Zhang reports in the current issue of Physical Review Letters that it is theoretically possible to make much thinner threads by slightly altering experimental procedures. If proven in the laboratory, the technique has potential use in fiber optics, electronics and other industries. "There are many people who are trying to use this idea, or ideas like this, to make very thin wires," said Zhang, an Assistant Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago. "Theyre very interested to know whats the smallest size that they can achieve."
The calculation that Zhang devised to answer that question indicates there is no theoretical limit to the thinness of a thread produced via fluid flow. But the calculation doesnt account for the microscopic building blocks of matter. In reality, she said, a thread cannot be thinner than the molecules of which it is made. "In my opinion, this great work will open wide new avenues for the controlled production of extremely thin and long holes in materials like polymers, glasses and ceramics," said Alfonso Gañán-Calvo of the Universidad de Sevilla in Spain. He added that the work could have "an enormous impact in fields from biomedicine and biotechnology to the hot nanotech industry."
Steve Koppes | EurekAlert!
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