Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nano-machines achieve huge mechanical breakthrough

07.09.2005


A major advance in nanotechnology with far-reaching potential benefits in medicine and other fields is to be announced at this year’s BA Festival of Science in Dublin.



Scientists have built molecules that can, for the first time ever, move larger-than-atom-sized objects. Constructing molecular machines capable of performing relatively large-scale mechanical tasks has never been achieved before.

Now, in an unprecedented breakthrough, chemists at Edinburgh University have used light to stimulate man-made molecules to propel small droplets of liquid across flat surfaces and even up 12° slopes against the force of gravity. This is equivalent to tiny movements in a conventional machine raising objects to over twice the height of the world’s tallest building.


This significant step could eventually lead to the development of artificial muscles that use molecular ‘nano’-machines of this kind to help perform physical tasks. Nano-machines could also be used in ‘smart’ materials that change their properties (e.g. volume, viscosity, conductivity) in response to a stimulus. They could even control the movement of drugs around the body to the exact point where they are needed.

The research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and has also involved scientists in Italy and the Netherlands. David Leigh, Forbes Professor of Organic Chemistry and EPSRC Senior Research Fellow, leads the Edinburgh University team.

David Leigh and his colleagues have achieved their breakthrough by harnessing a natural biological mechanism called ‘Brownian motion’ (the random movement of molecules caused by collisions with molecules around them). This has involved controlling (or ‘biasing’) Brownian motion so that molecule movements are no longer completely random.

The team has developed a way of covering a gold surface with specially engineered molecules. When stimulated by ultra-violet light, the components of these molecules change position (this is because a chemical reaction takes place in one part of the molecule that causes it to repel another part). These changes in position dramatically alter the surface tension of a droplet of liquid placed on the gold surface and in this way produce enough energy to move the droplet a distance of up to a millimetre. It may be the tiniest of movements but in the emerging discipline of nanotechnology this represents a giant technological leap forward.

David Leigh says: “Nature uses molecules as motors and machines in all kinds of biological and chemical processes. Although man’s understanding of how to build and control molecular machines is still at an early stage, nanoscale science and engineering could have a life-enhancing impact on human society comparable in extent to that of electricity, the steam engine, the transistor and the Internet.”

David Leigh will be discussing his work and showing videos of droplet movement during his talk at the Festival on 7th September. A detailed report has also been published in the latest edition of Nature Materials (‘Nanoshuttles move droplets uphill’; Vol. 4, pp.704-710, 2005).

Ronald Kerr | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ed.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water world
20.11.2017 | Washington University in St. Louis

nachricht Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity
20.11.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>