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 ")

Seabreacher, H.G. Winter's 1939 Torpoon
'Ken lay full-length in the padded body compartment, his feet resting on the controlling bars of the directional planes, hands on the torpoon's engine levers.' - HG Winters, 1939.

Project Soli Radar Gesture Chip Now FCC Approved
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.' - Philip K. Dick, 1955.

Implosion Fabrication Shrinks 3D Objects To Nanoscale
'Carter had watched miniaturization a hundred times...' - Isaac Asimov, 1965.

ODYSSEUS Solar-Powered Stratospheric Plane Flies Forever
'The planes flew continuously, twenty-four hours a day...' - EB White, 1950.

 

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

Datagrid Model Generation Perfect For Eternal Cities Of Science Fiction
'... there was enough flexibility to allow for wide variation.

Kazahk Ironist Protester Arrested For Blank Sign Protest
'...a man carried a white rectangular sign, blank on both sides.'

Bitcoin Surges Again, To $7,000
'... electronic, private cash, unbacked by any government, untraceable, completely anonymous.'

China Develops Taste Testing Robots
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'

North Sea Stone Age Reconstruction And Philip K Dick
'Your Dip digs back into antiquity. Rome. Greece. Dust and old volumes.'

Tesla Robotaxis Will Automatically Recharge Themselves
'Then it appeared to make up its mind, and trundled over to a wall socket...'

New Lifelike Material Powered By Artificial Metabolism
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.'

Husqvarna Automower 435X AWD
'Gramp Stevens sat in a lawn chair, watching the mower at work...'

Elon Musk Foretells Tesla Sans Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel... I don't need one.'

Adversarial Patches Trick Computer Vision
'The surveillance cameras can all see it, but then they forget they’ve seen it.'

Amazon Warehouse Computer Can Fire People Now
'The system has already fired five people...'

BrainEx Restores Some Activity To Severed Pig Head
'... they placed the brain in a special solution, having all the properties of Nursing the brain cells.'

Yes, But Do Astrobees Have Lasers For Lightsaber Training?
'... Ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.'

'Young Razorbacks Before Their Katanas Grow In'
'Twin robotic arms with gleaming three-foot sword blades unfolded from the forward hydraulic assemblies...'

A New Way To Run Into Things
'He made an adjustment, pointed the tube at the wall beside Etzwane, and projected a cone of light.'

'Metallic Wood' Strong Like Titanium, Floats In Water
'A metal... light as cork and stronger than steel...'

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.