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Playing Pinball With Atoms: How To Turn Nanotech Devices On And Off

Date:
October 14, 2008
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
With nanotechnology yielding a burgeoning menagerie of microscopic pumps, motors, and other machines for potential use in medicine and industry, here is one good question: How will humans turn those devices on and off?

Scientists are reporting construction and testing of a nanotech device that responds to on-off stimuli and resembles flippers on a pinball machine.
Credit: Harold J. W. Zandvliet

With nanotechnology yielding a burgeoning menagerie of microscopic pumps, motors, and other machines for potential use in medicine and industry, here is one good question: How will humans turn those devices on and off?

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In an advance toward giving humans that control, scientists in The Netherlands are reporting use of an external electrical signal to control an atomic-scale mechanical device that looks like the flippers on a pinball machine.

Their report is scheduled for the Oct. 8 issue of ACS' monthly journal Nano Letters.

In the study, Harold J. W. Zandvliet and colleagues point out that efforts to build ever-smaller mechanical devices have made scientists recognize the difficulty of exerting control over these nanomachines, which are too tiny for any conventional on-off-switch. They describe construction and successful testing of a device, "grown" on a wafer of germanium crystal, that responds to on-off stimuli.

Researchers say the device — so tiny that billions would fit on the head of a pin — resembles the arms or flippers on a pinball machine. The signals for the arms to move back and forth come from the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope.

"By precisely controlling the tip current and distance, we make two atom pairs behave like the flippers on an atomic-sized pinball machine," they state. "Our observations prove unambiguously that it is possible to control an atomic scale mechanical device using a simple electrical signal. A better understanding of similar devices can shed light on the future possibilities and opportunities for the application of atomic-scale devices."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Saedi et al. Playing Pinball with Atoms. Nano Letters, 2008; DOI: 10.1021/nl8022884

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Playing Pinball With Atoms: How To Turn Nanotech Devices On And Off." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006170627.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2008, October 14). Playing Pinball With Atoms: How To Turn Nanotech Devices On And Off. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 24, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006170627.htm
American Chemical Society. "Playing Pinball With Atoms: How To Turn Nanotech Devices On And Off." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006170627.htm (accessed January 24, 2015).

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