Lower Limit For Nanobot Size Discovered

Size limits for nanotechnology devices have finally been determined by University of Arizona physicists, who have succeeded in directly measuring how close an atom can come to a surface before its wave changes. This is the first time that the idea that a fast-moving atom's wave shortens and lengthens, depending on its distance from a surface. This idea was first proposed in the late 1920's.

This measurement is essential information for nanotechnologists, because it limits how small a device can be before van der Waals forces between atoms and surfaces starts to become a problem for a working device.


(From Atom interferometer)

UA optical sciences doctoral candidate John D. Perreault and UA assistant professor of physics Alexander D. Cronin used a sophisticated device called an atom interferometer in making the measurement. "Our research provides the first direct experimental evidence that a surface 25 nanometers away (25 billionths of a meter) causes a shift in the atom wave crests," Perreault said. "It shows that the van der Waals interaction may be a small scale force, but it's a big deal for atoms." Perreault and Cronin found that atoms closer than 25 nanometers to a surface are very strongly attracted to the surface because of the van der Waals interaction-- so strongly that the atoms are accelerated with the force of a million g's.

This new research causes an interesting dilemma not just for researchers in nanotechnology, but for science fiction writers as well, because it sets limits on imagination. When Einstein's work on relativistic physics became well established, sf writers were hard put to create believable space travel that involved accelerating a mass (like a spaceship) anywhere close to the speed of light, let alone at multiples of light speed. The arguments over whether hyperspace jumps and supralight drives are possible, or whether we will wind up using slowboats to journey to the stars, have gone on for several generations now.

When Philip K. Dick imagined the autofac in 1955 (and embryonic robots ten years later), there were no limits to how small you could imagine a nanobot to be:

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)

Dick's literary efforts preceded Richard Feynman's famous 1959 talk that kicked off the scientific pursuit of nanotechnology.

Read more here

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/25/2005)

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 ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Engineering ")

Smellicopter Combines Live Moth Antenna With Mechanical Drone
'The organic tissue is inserted in the master tank and then sealed.' - Philip K. Dick, 1955.

DARPA's Virtual Caves Explored By Virtual Robots
'If there's anything in here worth looking at, these pups'll find it.' - Ridley Scott, 2012.

Samsung Gets Transparent Smartphone Patent
The Transparency of Things to Come

Jet-Powered Flying Suits Tested By Navy
'With his motor in operation, he moves like a diver, head foremost...' - Philip Frances Nowlan, 1928.

 

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

DALL-E Makes Creative Images From Text
Okay, sf fans. If you could have some art created from a science fiction sentence, what sentence would you pick?

BladeBUG Robots Clean Massive Wind Turbine Blades
'There were the cleaners, with large padded feet, who were apparently polishing their way the whole length...'

Looms To Manually Weave Lunar Rover Wheels
It's fascinating to me how the Apollo program forced people to think outside their usual boxes.

IceBot Antarctic (Planetary?) Robotic Explorers Made Of Ice
'Some will combine in place to form more complicated structures, like excavators or centipedes.'

Glad 2020 Is Over
Maybe you missed one of these?

PEDOT Polymer Could Enhance Brain-Machine Interfaces
'the hair-fine wire going deep into Owen's brain, down into the pleasure center.'

Study: Robots Encourage Humans To Take Risks
Not exactly Three Laws compliant.

Kinetic Buildings And Psychotropic Houses
'There was a dim whirring, and the spheres tipped and began to rotate...'

Jupe Urban Escape Pods Have Tesla, SpaceX Roots
'The houses are prefabricated units... and they sell at the flat rate of five hundred dollars a room set up.'

Best Robot Dance Video Of 2020
'I can Mashed Potato... I can do the Twist.'

Vertical Farm In Singapore's Output Is 1.5 Tons Per Day
'A towering eighty-story structure like the office "In-and-Out" baskets stacked up to the sky.'

3D Printed 'Blisk' Manufactured In Orbit
'It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Comercial Airlock 'Bishop' Now On ISS
'They put the bones and the glass can that had contained the soup into the double-doored partition or vestibule...'

Space Station Could Use Some Martian Sawgrass
'What better purifying machine is there than a plot of grass?'

ARTUu AI Copilot For USAF
'A series of short beep's and chirps issued from his speaker...'

Smellicopter Combines Live Moth Antenna With Mechanical Drone
'The organic tissue is inserted in the master tank and then sealed.'

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.