A pioneering team from the University of Leicester is seeking to harness a force of nature- only measured accurately a decade ago – to help develop the technology of tomorrow.
Their work will have applications in what is considered to be science fiction where miniscule submarine-type machines might be used to destroy cancer cells.
The research group is believed to be the only group in the UK carrying out Casimir force measurements of smooth and patterned surfaces and assessing the utility of the force for nanotechnology.
The research arises from the quantum fluctuations of vacuum, part of quantum field theory, which at present is the universal theory describing the behaviour of all quantum particles.
The Casimir force is a subtle consequence of the vacuum fluctuations, which can be directly measured using the tools of nanotechnology, specifically atomic force microscopes.
Results of the research may lead to frictionless bearings and may solve one of the fundamental problems in nanomachines.
The research, led by Chris Binns, Professor of Nanoscience in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is not only of fundamental interest. It is hoped that it will be able to harness the Casimir force as a way of transmitting force without contact in nanomachines, ie machines with components approaching the size of molecules.
He said: “Generally nanomachines are science fiction and so it is up to the imagination about what they could do but one of the most talked about potential use is in medical applications where submarine type machines might be used to identify cancer cells and destroy them.”
Normally in such machines the Casimir force is a problem, because at the small distances between components the force is quite strong and generates a fundamental ‘stickiness’ to everything, which is impossible to remove.
Professor Binns’ research is trying to turn the problem on its head, and to utilise the Casimir force as a useful way of transmitting force without contact, for example patterning surface to produce the lateral force in which one patterned surface can drag another one in the same direction.
The force was first accurately measured about 10 years ago and nanoscientists are currently trying to find ways to modify and use it, for instance in lateral force.
Professor Binns commented: “The research is at a fundamental level, so at this stage we only hope to determine how the force varies between surfaces composed of different materials and how patterning the surface changes it. Also, we want to measure the magnitude of the lateral force between surfaces.
“One new area we are starting to look at, however, is to measure the force between a normal material and a ‘metamaterial’. A metamaterial is a surface with a designed nanoscale patterning that gives strange optical properties.
“There are indications that with the right sort of patterning it may be possible to reverse the force to produce repulsion. This would have huge technological repercussions and lead to, for example, frictionless bearings, as well as getting rid of the stickiness problem in nano-machines.
“This is exciting research because it is controversial. Not everybody believes that a repulsive force is possible.”
Ather Mirza | alfa
Thin films from Braunschweig on the way to Mercury
19.10.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Schicht- und Oberflächentechnik IST
Extremely close look at electron advances frontiers in particle physics
19.10.2018 | National Science Foundation
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.
Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...
Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles
Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...
When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.
We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...
Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...
Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...
17.10.2018 | Event News
16.10.2018 | Event News
02.10.2018 | Event News
19.10.2018 | Life Sciences
19.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
19.10.2018 | Trade Fair News