New chapter begins with the smallest machine made

A team of researchers from both University of Cambridge and University of Bath in England has created the tiniest machine to date. It measures only about a billionth of a metre wide. According to experts, nanorobotics could transform nearly every industry in the world. The microscopic device is known as ANT (Actuating Nano Transducer). The ant is one-millionth the size of an average ant that we find in our garden. The creators of the nanorobotic say that there are many future uses for it. They believe this will appeal to those working in electronics, space exploration, electronic warfare, biotech and hundreds of other areas. According to Dr. Tao Ding of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and his colleagues, the tiny machine is powered only by light. (citation below). The world’s smallest machine is the ANT – Actuating Nano-Transducer. (Image: Image credit: Yi Ju. The ANT is likely to be the foundation for *nanomachines in the future that are able to travel through water and sense its surroundings. When used in science the prefix “nano” refers to extremely small units. It is generally 10-9 or one-billionth in the name of units. The term nanorobotics, also known as nanomites or nanomachines, is used to refer to space travel, 3D printing, nanophotonics, light-efficient military defense, replacement of worn parts and creation of small computer circuits that can produce tiny chips and processors. Many countries, including the UK, France and USA as well as Canada, Japan, Russia, Germany and Canada, have begun to research nanotechnology in their defense departments. This includes unmanned drone air surveillance, military applications, and even nanotechnology. These nanotechnology could also be used to improve body armor that can self-repair itself if it is damaged. Made of very small gold particles. This machine is composed of extremely tiny pieces of gold, which are linked together by polymers that can be temperature-sensitive and form a gel. Nanorobots have a microscopic size, only billionths to a metre in length. This means that many nanorobots will need to be used together for tasks. This is what science fiction stories often refer to as a ‘nanorobot cluster’. They can make huge machines or entire cities. (Image: hovo-nanotechnology.blogspot) When the nano-engine is heated to a specific temperature, it stores massive amounts of elastic energy in a fraction of a second, as the polymer coatings expel all the water from the gel, which then collapses. The gold particles become bonded together when all of the water has evaporated. The device drops to a lower temperature and cools, but the polymers absorb water at an incredible rate and then expand rapidly. This causes the nanoparticles of gold to be pushed apart quickly and forcefully, much like a coil. The machine’s sudden expansion when it cools down is described by Dr. Ding as “a blast”. Our machine can produce hundreds of golden balls that are separated in one millionth of an second as water molecules push the polymers surrounding them apart. Dr. Ventsislav Vallev is a Royal Society Research Fellow and Reader. He said, “We know light can heat water to make steam engines. To repair the International Space Station, astronauts must travel outside. But we now have light that can power a piston engine on the nanoscale. Researchers predict that nanorobots in large numbers will soon be able to do this. Researchers and laypeople alike dream of nano-machines that can work in any environment. Although it is possible to make small machines, getting them moving on their own is a challenge. Researchers at Cambridge have found a simple way to make tiny machines move fast and produce large amounts of force. The force exerted by this microscopic device is several times greater than any motor ever made. The force it exerts per unit of weight is nearly one-hundredfold greater than motors. According to the authors, ANT can be produced at a low cost, is energy-efficient, bio-compatible and responds quickly. Actuating Nanotransducers – ANTs Study leader, Jeremy Baumberg is Professor of Nanophotonics and Director of the Nanophotonics Centre at the University of Cambridge. He also holds the title ‘ANT’ (or actuating nanotransducer). Professor Baumberg commented on the machine’s “ant-like” quality. He said that they are similar to real ants in producing large forces for their size. Now, we must control this force to nano-machinery. The journal’s authors propose how to convert Van de Walls energy, which is the attraction of molecules, atoms, and polymers into elastic energy that can be instantly released. Professor Baumberg stated that the whole thing is like a mini-spring. Professor Baumberg said that the whole process is similar to a nano-spring. Because the nanotransducers are selectively bound at designated sites, this concept seems to be broadly applicable. This research was funded by the European Research Council as well the UK Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council. What exactly is a nanorobot, you ask? According to “A nanorobot is a tiny machine designed to perform a specific task or tasks repeatedly and with precision at nanoscale dimensions, that is, dimensions of a few nanometers (nm) or less, where 1 nm = 10-9 meter.” Nanorobots can function at the molecular or atomic level to build circuits, machines and devices – this process is called molecular manufacturing. According to engineers, nanorobots may eventually produce duplicates of their own units to replace worn-out ones. This process is called self-replication. Citation: “Light induced actuating nanotransducers,” Chris J. Forman and Stoyan K. Scerman. Oren A.Scherman. Andrew R. Salmon. Tao Ding. Ventsislav K. Vallev. Daan Frenkel. Jeremy J. Baumberg. PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) 2nd May 2016. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1524209113. Video: The race for the nanotech arms Race Defence departments around the globe are involved in a race to win the nanotech arms races. Whoever wins in this race will virtually be unbeatable in non-nuclear combat.


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