11/25/2006

Don't make me nanocut you

Let's face it: there is really only one reason why nanotechnology is such a hot topic nowadays, and that is because "nano-" is the hippest prefix ever. It's terribly euphonic, its consonant repetition pleasing to our ears. Nano slides off the tongue easily, and the second syllable just sort of hangs there, yearing to be affixed to anything. And that's aside from the dimensions it refers to: just the word nano gives the reader a sense of the impossibly small, and impossibly small, as we've learned from every tech company ever, is awesome. Thus, now just about everything can be nano'd, though not all of it is really useful.

This one might be though. Doods and doodettes at NIST and CU-Boulder have developed the alliterative "Nanoknife," a sort-of cheese slicer that utilizes a material close to my heart as the cutting wire- carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are only a couple of nanometers wide and are quite durable, thus the exhaustively internetty ranting about using them to build a Space Elevator. Utilizing a single nanotube grafted to tungsten needles, this nanoknife can potentially be used by biologists to cut very small slivers of cells with high accuracy. Have they actually tried to cut stuff with it? Well... no. Engineers as they are, they HAVE done a bunch of pressure tests on them to test their durability (they are weakest, not surprisingly, at the graft points). They plan to cut stuff with one later on, so your nanocheese will have to wait. Nonetheless, this and other nanotools this team has developed might greatly help biologists do... whatever the hell it is they do. Something about life and shit.

(And check out that hot AFM action in the pic! Makes ME wanna la-la. In the kitchen, on the... lab... floor.)

14 comments:

mitch said...

Clearly not an AFM image!

Mitch

Mike said...

What is AFM anyway?

Excimer said...

Well that IS an AFM cantilever tip poking that nanotube, so, yes, it's AFM. Though that pic is like taking a picture of someone looking at a microscope... a really small person with a really small microscope.

AFM stands for "Atomic Force Microscopy." Basically a very small, sharp tip of a cantilever is tapped frequently on a surface to gather information about that particular surface, typically with micro-to-nanometer scale resolution. It can be used for imaging or to get physical information about a surface (in the case I mentioned, it's used to determine the tensile strength of a carbon nanotube.) More here.

kosmisch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kosmisch said...

And exactly what is la la? And do you have a kitchen lab? Sounds very clandestine in a trailer park kinda way! :D

Excimer said...

kosmisch,

it's a song by that child prodigy, Ashlee Simpson. You are actually smarter for having never heard it.

Mitch said...

Okay, I'll believe that... ;)

Ψ*Ψ said...

so when will they start making nanocheese?

kosmisch said...

Ah! Ok.
Well you're right. I'm glad I didn't know that. :D

And nanocheese would be pretty useless without nano-crackers and/or -bread!

gaussling said...

So, how did they get the nanocheese cutter on the cantilever? Boulder, you may recall, is where the TV show "Mork and Mindy" was set, and the origin of the expletive "nano nano"! Well, sort of.

Gurpreet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gurpreet said...

It is an AFM tip connected to nanomanipulator arm and the tip is being moved from right to the left. It is just like a 3-point bending test. Tip deflection gives the force (F=K.d).

It is all being done inside a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).

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