Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Levitating" Molecules and Friction-Free Nano-Machines

The future is here, again.

By using mutually repellent molecules, researchers now believe they can create friction-free interacting moving parts for nano-machines. Patents are already pending on the totally unprecedented new class of mechanism. Nature is going to run the story.

The breakthrough will be felt first and perhaps most profitably in medicine, but all levels of micro- and nano-machining could benefit, including boosting computing speeds, providing for another revolution in technology.

What specifically happened was that applied physicists at Harvard, led by Federico Capasso, submersed a gold-plated sphere in liquid and measured the force as it was first attracted to a metal plate and then repelled from a silica plate. As simple as that sounds, it confirmed theoretical behavior predicted by quantum mechanics, specifically the Casimir Force, which comes into play when increasingly tiny metallic objects come into contact. Also known as "Stiction," the force is powerfully attractive. The manipulation of this force through the use of opposing principles means that a practically frictionless tension can be created and maintained: levitation. Russian physicists suggested as much was theoretically possible, but Bell Labs and Alcatel-Lucent helped make it a reality.

Thank you to The Daily Galaxy for a great website for fun science and the image.