Self-Assembling Nanoparticles Move Like Tiny Gears

Researchers funded by the US Air Force have been working with silver lattices—alternating layers of crystalline silver nanoparticle clusters and an organic buffer material. The researchers noticed that when the materials self-assembled, there was a mechanical action; the particle structures rotated like very tiny gear.


(Pressure moves molecular gears video)

"As we squeeze on this material, it gets softer and softer and suddenly experiences a dramatic change," said Uzi Landman, of the Georgia Institute of Technology. "When we look at the orientation of the microscopic structure of the crystal in the region of this transition, we see that something very unusual happens. The structures start to rotate with respect to one another, creating a molecular machine with some of the smallest moving elements ever observed." In each layer of the superlattice, those gears move in opposite directions to each other, and when pressure is taken again removed from the material, researchers found that these gears return to their original positions.

The gear motion is the result of the particular self-assembly process of the material. "Self-assembly" here is maybe not all that you expect; the material is not some from-scratch autonomous creation. Rather, the material is begun as a solution of molecules with a predisposition for bonding with each other at particular angles via hydrogen atoms/hydrogen bonds.

Science fiction author Philip K. Dick is arguably the first person to describe self-assembling nanomachines. In his 1955 short story Autofac, Dick described an automated factory that had the capacity to reproduce itself by shooting tiny pellets full of nanomachines into the distance:

The cylinder had split. At first he couldn't tell if it had been the impact or deliberate internal mechanisms at work. From the rent, an ooze of metal bits was sliding. Squatting down, O'Neill examined them.

The bits were in motion. Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically, purposefully - constructing something that looked like a tiny rectangle of steel.

"They're building," O'Neill said, awed...
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's autofac)

I'd also add a reference to a more structured version of this idea, the Robot Cells (Crystal-Shaped Modules) from 1987 work by Michael P. Kube-McDowell.

From Vice and Hydrogen-bonded structure and mechanical chiral response of a silver nanoparticle superlattice via Frolix_8 Hydrogen-bonded structure and mechanical chiral response of a silver nanoparticle superlattice

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/6/2014)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Engineering ")

Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.

Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.' - Larry Niven, 1970.

Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...' - Paul Di Filippo, 1985

Super-Resolution Microscopy Provides '4D' Views
View the magnified interior of living cells.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'

Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'

DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'

Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.

ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.

When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'

Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'

'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'

Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'

Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'

Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.

Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'

Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'

Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.