Friday, May 27, 2011

This week in nanotechnology - May 27, 2011

Electrical engineers at Duke University have determined that unique man-made materials should theoretically make it possible to improve the power transfer to small devices, such as laptops or cell phones, or ultimately to larger ones, such as cars or elevators, without wires. This advance is made possible by the recent ability to fabricate exotic composite materials known as metamaterials, which are not so much a single substance, but an entire man-made structure that can be engineered to exhibit properties not readily found in nature.

Being able to isolate individual molecules like DNA base pairs, which are just two nanometers across, is incredibly expensive and difficult to control. Now a team led by Yale University researchers has proven that isolating individual charged particles, like DNA molecules, is indeed possible using a method called "Paul trapping," which uses oscillating electric fields to confine the particles to a space only nanometers in size.
A single nanoparticle trapped between four microelectrodes
A single nanoparticle trapped between four microelectrodes

Physicist achieves measurement milestone down to the yoctonewton level. This is an incredibly small force - about a million million billion times smaller than the force exerted by a feather lying on a table. And the measurement is a thousand times more sensitive than anything previously possible.

A step closer to mass-manufacturing graphene for nanoelectronics: Researchers have developed a method for creating single-crystal arrays of graphene, an advance that opens up the possibility of a replacement for silicon in high-performance computers and electronics. The new findings represent an advance toward perfecting a method for manufacturing large quantities of single crystals of the material, similar to the production of silicon wafers.

At the forefront of nanotechnology, researchers design miniature machines to do big jobs, from treating diseases to harnessing sunlight for energy. But as they push the limits of this technology, devices are becoming so small and sensitive that the behavior of individual atoms starts to get in the way. Now Caltech researchers have, for the first time, measured and characterized these atomic fluctuations - which cause statistical noise - in a nanoscale device.