A key technological breakthrough led by the University of Edinburgh suggests that a futuristic world where people can move objects about ‘remotely’ with laser pointers could be closer than we think. Chemists working on the nanoscale (80,000 times smaller than a hair’s breadth) have managed to move a tiny droplet of liquid across a surface – and even up a slope – by transporting it along a layer of light-sensitive molecules.
Scientists at Edinburgh, Groningen and Bologna are the first to manipulate tiny nanoscale machines (two millionths of a millimetre high) so that they can move an object that is visible to the naked eye. The team has shifted microlitre drops of diiodomethane not just across a flat surface, but also up a one millimetre, 12 degree slope against the force of gravity. It may be the tiniest of movements, but, in the emerging discipline of nanotechnology, it represents a giant technological leap forward.
Although many scientists are working with so-called ‘molecular machines’ – a process which involves making the parts of molecules move in a controlled fashion – the Edinburgh-led team is the first to make these machines interact with ‘real world’ objects. Until now, molecular machines have operated in isolation within the laboratory, but this latest piece of research brings them into contact with the everyday world around us.
Ronald Kerr | alfa
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At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
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