Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New nanoscale electrical phenomenon discovered

Date:
May 18, 2010
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
At the scale of the very small, physics can get peculiar. A biomedical engineering professor has discovered a new instance of such a nanoscale phenomenon -- one that could lead to faster, less expensive portable diagnostic devices and push back frontiers in building micro-mechanical and "lab-on-a-chip" devices.

At the scale of the very small, physics can get peculiar. A University of Michigan biomedical engineering professor has discovered a new instance of such a nanoscale phenomenon -- one that could lead to faster, less expensive portable diagnostic devices and push back frontiers in building micro-mechanical and "lab on a chip" devices.

Related Articles


In our macroscale world, materials called conductors effectively transmit electricity and materials called insulators or dielectrics don't, unless they are jolted with an extremely high voltage. Under such "dielectric breakdown" circumstances, as when a bolt of lightening hits a rooftop, the dielectric (the rooftop in this example) suffers irreversible damage.

This isn't the case at the nanoscale, according to a new discovery by Alan Hunt, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Hunt and his research team were able to get an electric current to pass nondestructively through a sliver of glass, which isn't usually a conductor.

A paper on the research is newly published online in Nature Nanotechnology.

"This is a new, truly nanoscale physical phenomenon," Hunt said. "At larger scales, it doesn't work. You get extreme heating and damage.

"What matters is how steep the voltage drop is across the distance of the dielectric. When you get down to the nanoscale and you make your dielectric exceedingly thin, you can achieve the breakdown with modest voltages that batteries can provide. You don't get the damage because you're at such a small scale that heat dissipates extraordinarily quickly."

These conducting nanoscale dielectric slivers are what Hunt calls liquid glass electrodes, fabricated at the U-M Center for Ultrafast Optical Science with a femtosecond laser, which emits light pulses that are only quadrillionths of a second long.

The glass electrodes are ideal for use in lab-on-a-chip devices that integrate multiple laboratory functions onto one chip just millimeters or centimeters in size. The devices could lead to instant home tests for illnesses, food contaminants and toxic gases. But most of them need a power source to operate, and right now they rely on wires to route this power. It's often difficult for engineers to insert these wires into the tiny machines, Hunt said.

"The design of microfluidic devices is constrained because of the power problem," Hunt said. "But we can machine electrodes right into the device."

Instead of using wires to route electricity, Hunt's team etches channels through which ionic fluid can transmit electricity. These channels, 10 thousand times thinner than the dot of this "i," physically dead-end at their intersections with the microfluidic or nanofluidic channels in which analysis is being conducted on the lab-on a-chip (this is important to avoid contamination). But the electricity in the ionic channels can zip through the thin glass dead-end without harming the device in the process.

This discovery is the result of an accident. Two channels in an experimental nanofluidic device didn't line up properly, Hunt said, but the researchers found that electricity did pass through the device.

"We were surprised by this, as it runs counter to accepted thinking about the behavior of nonconductive materials," Hunt said. "Upon further study we were able to understand why this could happen, but only at the nanometer scale."

As for electronics applications, Hunt said that the wiring necessary in integrated circuits fundamentally limits their size.

"If you could utilize reversible dielectric breakdown to work for you instead of against you, that might significantly change things," Hunt said.

The paper is called "Liquid glass electrodes for nanofluidics." This research is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property, and is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sanghyun Lee, Ran An, Alan J. Hunt. Liquid glass electrodes for nanofluidics. Nature Nanotechnology, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2010.81

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "New nanoscale electrical phenomenon discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100518131720.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2010, May 18). New nanoscale electrical phenomenon discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100518131720.htm
University of Michigan. "New nanoscale electrical phenomenon discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100518131720.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Printed Instruments Make Sweet Music in Sweden

3D Printed Instruments Make Sweet Music in Sweden

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Students from Lund University's Malmo Academy of Music are believed to be the world's first band to all use 3D printed instruments. The guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and drums were built by Olaf Diegel, professor of product development, who says 3D printing allows musicians to design an instrument to their exact specifications. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) Strong jet demand has pushed Boeing to raise its profit forecast for the third time, but analysts were disappointed by its small cash flow. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins