A University of California, Berkeley (www.berkeley.edu) team, headed by physics professor Alex Zetti, has built a 500 nm electric motor—the world's smallest—from carbon nanotubes and silicon. The motor is the first device that allows external wires and a rotor. In this case, the rotor is between 100 to 300 nm long, while the carbon nanotube shaft to which it is attached is only a few atoms across, perhaps 5 to 10 nm, the team says. Applications might include optical switching, or the spinning rotor could be used to mix liquids in microfluidic devices, the team adds.
With a better understanding of materials’ response to load and temperature, researchers could potentially use the knowledge to improve design. The research could even help geologists studying plate tectonics.
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