Recent Developments

Here are some recent developments in the field of Nanotech.  Amazing as the recent developments in nano-manufacturing are, they still cannot deliver to us the miracles of the nanotechnological future.  Although experimental lithographic techniques for etching semiconductor printed circuits promise a resolution of 100 nanometres or even finer, this is still far to coarse to build a true nano-scale machines of atomic scale precision.  While tediously shifting around one atom at a time using incredibly expensive equipment will hardly enable the mass-producing of billions of devices.  Nevertheless, the microscopic gears and motors that have already been built do at least indicate the viability of making molecular machines.


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web page Test-drive for nanocopters
Fri 24 Nov 2000 - The first microscopic "helicopters", which could one day carry out medical tasks inside the body, have been built and test-driven by scientists at Cornell University. The devices are no bigger than a virus particle. They consist of metal propellers and a biological component attached to a metal post. The biological component converts the body's biochemical fuel, ATP, into energy. This is used to turn the propellers at a rate of eight rotations per second. In tests the nano-helicopters' propellers for up to 2 1/2 hours. This is an important first step towards producing miniature machines capable of functioning inside living cells. But at this stage the technology is still very inefficient. Only five of the first 400 biomotors worked properly, and it still has to be proved that the machines can function inside a living cell.

web page Nature's Way Might Be Path to Smaller Computer Chips
8 June 2000 - The same trick an oyster uses to make mother-of-pearl may ultimately enable researchers to "grow" ultra-miniaturized computer chips. The electrical pathways would be self-assembled like the delicate whorls of seashells, rather than etched by conventional manufacturing techniques, and would be only a fraction the size of the smallest circuit components possible today. The work represents a major technological breakthrough in the field of nanotechnology that will lead to a whole new class of nanoscale sensors.
"Nature's Way" really seems the logical path to nanotech - through simulation of nature, rather than miniturisation of industrialism. After all, the natural biosphere has been building "nanomachines" (life) for over three and a half billion years.

web page Scientists Discover How to Make Nanostructures Assemble Themselves - Technique Could Yield New Generation of Miniature Electronics - Princeton University - 18 November, 1999 - "Princeton researchers have created ultrasmall plastic structures with a method that is cheaper and more versatile than previous techniques. The discovery has yielded surprising insights into the behavior of materials at very small scales, while spawning many basic research questions. It also could pave the way to a new generation of miniature products, from computer memory chips and video components to devices for sorting DNA molecules..."

web pageYale Research on Molecular Switches May Lead to Smaller, Cheaper Computers - 18 November, 1999 - Yale and Rice University scientists have demonstrated molecular devices that act as reversible electronic switches, making it possible to build smaller computers that are less expensive.

EurekAlert - Science, Medicine & Technology newsNorthwestern chemists plot the next step in nanotechnology - October 1999 - researchers at Northwestern University demonstrate a new technology that may be used to miniaturize electronic circuits, put thousands of different medical sensors on an area much tinier than the head of a pin and develop an understanding of the intrinsic behavior of ultrasmall structures -- ones comprised of a small collection of molecules patterned on a solid substrate.   By miniaturizing existing writing and printing techniques,...a research team led by Chad Mirkin, Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry and director of Northwestern's Center for Nanotechnology, has paved the way for such possibilities.  In their paper (Science, Oct 15 1999), the researchers detail how they have transformed their world's smallest pen (Science, Jan. 29, 1999) into the world's smallest plotter, a device capable of drawing multiple lines of molecules -- each line only 15 nanometers or 30 molecules wide -- with such precision that only five nanometers, or about 200 billionths of an inch, separate each line. By contrast, a human hair is about 10,000 nanometers wide....It is the nano-plotter's accuracy of registration when building nanostructures of different organic molecules that could dramatically impact molecule-based electronics, molecular diagnostics and catalysis, in addition to leading to new applications not yet imagined in nanotechnology...."

web page Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1996 announced the creation of "intelligent" micromachines that incorporate integrated-circuit controllers, and of sinking electric motors into tiny etched trenches, enabling the fabrication of entire electromechanical systems on a chip.

nano-guitar Researchers at Cornell University in August 1997 unveiled the world's smallest guitar. Smaller than a single cell, the "nanoguitar" is only 10 micrometers long and really plays. The strings are only 50 nanometers wide and can be plucked by an atomic force microscope.  But the nanoguitar is too small to generate sound at frequencies audible to the human ear.

nanomachine - click here for larger image (125 kb) In June of 1997 a team of Australian researchers managed to build a functioning nanomachine, a biosensor, a combination of biology and physics, designed to detect substances with extreme sensitivity.  It consists of a synthetic membrane chemically tethered to a thin metal film coated onto a piece of plastic. This membrane behaves like the outer skin of the cells of the human body in its ability to sense other molecules.  The central component of the device is a tiny electrical switch, an ion-channel, only 1.5 nonometres in size.  Being cheap and easy to use, the biosensors have a huge range of potential uses, e.g. detecting drugs, hormones, viruses, pesticides, gene sequences, drugs, medically-active compounds, and more.

NanothincNanothinc is a company providing information services concerning nanotechnology and related technologies.  A huge amount of material is archived on this site.  By checking reguklarily you can keep in touch with recent developments.


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text by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 7 November 1998, last modified 24 May 2003

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