Researchers concoct self-propelled nano motor

Researchers concoct self-propelled nano motor

Researchers at UCLA and the University of Bologna have come up with a nano-size vehicle that can inch its way forward on sunlight and one day could, conceivably, be used to shuttle medicines or other small particles around.

The motor in chemical terms is a rotaxane, a mechanically interlocked molecule consisting of a ring trapped on a rod by bulky stoppers at both ends in the same way that rings are kept on an abacus. The ring in a sense serves as the foot. It is attracted to one end of the rod, called Station A, and moves toward it until it hits the stopper. The ring then moves to the second port of call, Station B, and moves toward it until halted by the opposite stopper. By alternating between Stations A and B, the ring pulls the whole contraption forward.

The attraction and repulsion is accomplished through electron harvesting. One of the ends of the barbell harvests an electron from sunlight and transfers it to Station A. When Station A contains an electron, the ring moves toward Station B. When Station A returns the electron to the barbell, the ring moves toward it.

A full cycle is carried out in less than a thousandth of a second, which means that the motor can operate at a frequency of 1,000 Hertz, according to the researchers. This is equivalent, using the car engine analogy, to 60,000 revolutions per minute.

“The kind of nanotechnology that will emerge from these nano motors still requires a lot of fundamental work. The nano motors are extremely sophisticated in their design,” Fraser Stoddart, UCLA’s Fred Kavli chair of NanoSystems Sciences and director of the institute, said in a statement.

Last year, researchers at Rice University showed off nanocars. These were propelled by external electric fields and did not generate their own energy, which the UCLA motor does. However, the Rice vehicles had moving molecular wheels.

Dangers of Molecular Manufacturing

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) will be a significant breakthrough, comparable perhaps to the Industrial Revolution”but compressed into a few years. This has the potential to disrupt many aspects of society and politics. The power of the technology may cause two competing nations to enter a disruptive and unstable arms race. Weapons and surveillance devices could be made small, cheap, powerful, and very numerous. Cheap manufacturing and duplication of designs could lead to economic upheaval. Overuse of inexpensive products could cause widespread environmental damage. Attempts to control these and other risks may lead to abusive restrictions, or create demand for a black market that would be very risky and almost impossible to stop; small nanofactories will be very easy to smuggle, and fully dangerous. There are numerous severe risks ”including several different kinds of risk”that cannot all be prevented with the same approach. Simple, one-track solutions cannot work. So what then?

Intel plans 45-nanometer chips next year

Intel Corp. will enter the next era of Moores Law in the second half of 2007 with commercial shipment of its first PC processors based on a 45-nanometer manufacturing process, the company said Wednesday.

Intel showed off what it called the worlds first fully functional SRAM (static RAM) chip made with a 45nm process technology. It has more than 1 billion transistors, according to a company statement. Like other test chips, it functions as SRAM, but includes all the elements of a multicore PC processor, said spokesman John Casey. It is not intended as an Intel product, but only to demonstrate that the company can build a chip with the next-generation technology, he said.

A nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter, and each chip production technology is measured by the size of the smallest feature it can produce on a chip. With the 45nm manufacturing process, Intel can make processors with five times less power leakage than current chips, Intel said, and as a result, it will allow for PCs with higher performance per watt. The companies most advanced manufacturing technology today is 65nm, which went into commercial production in the fourth quarter of last year. Intel moves to a new process generation every two years, the company said.

Moores Law, coined by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, states that the number of transistors on a chip will double every 18 months.

The chips will be made on large 300-millimeter wafers, Intel said. Those wafers deliver higher volume and lower cost per chip than smaller wafers. The companies initial 45nm work is taking place at its D1D fabrication plant, or in Oregon. It is also building two more fabs for 45nm manufacturing, Fab 32 in Arizona and Fab 28 in Israel, the company said.