Little tech wins big as nanocar inventor takes top science award
Nanovehicles could one day be used to build memory devices, buildings
Computerworld - The inventor of a car slightly wider than a strand of DNA took the top prize in nanotechnologies this week. James Tour, a professor of chemistry at Rice University, won the Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for experimental nanotechnology for his nanocar, which is four nanometers across and includes a chassis with an engine, a pivoting suspension and rotating axles attached to rolling buckyball wheels, each made of 60 carbon atoms.
Tour and his team of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers not only built a car, but also constructed a nanotruck capable of carrying a payload. Asked why he did it, Tour's answer was simple: so that we can someday construct buildings and other large objects with molecular-size vehicles.
It took Tour and his team eight years to build the car. One of the significant challenges was attaching the wheels because the buckyballs had the adverse affect of shutting down the binding property -- the palladium reaction -- used to form the rest of the vehicle.
Over the next 30 years, Tour's nanotechnology could produce quantum-dot memory, which involves stringing together metal atoms in patterns that could then store data. Each quantum dot would consist of 50 metal atoms, he said.
Of course, that's a long way off, Tour acknowledged. He hasn't even patented the technology because by the time it could be used to make money, the patents would be expired. And we're not talking about a few nanotrucks carrying metal atoms to construct skyscrapers but 1023 or more vehicles, all carrying nanoparticles in orchestration, he said.
Until now, engineers have built things by taking larger objects and cutting them down to make smaller ones, Tour said. For example, trees are cut down to make tables, and as such, large silicon wafers are cut away to make transistors. But in the future, things will be built not from the top down, but the bottom up -- as in nature.
Tour pointed to hemoglobin as an example. Each heme group -- containing one iron atom -- carries only one molecule of oxygen, but billions of them go back and forth carrying oxygen from our lungs to the cells crying out for it. And on the way back out of the cells, the hemes detoxify by carrying out CO2. In the same way, nanovehicles could carry atoms to construct objects.
While self-assembling machines have been theorized for years, Tour argues that they can't succeed in creating complex structures, such as metals, because complex structures have many irregular segments to them.
- Data Warehouse Augmentation: The Queryable Data Store While organizations have, to date, been busy exploring and experimenting, they are now beginning to focus on using big data technologies to solve...
- Rebranded Quadmark revamps its IT solutions with Google Apps Switching to Google Apps halved Quadmark's IT admin costs while achieving 10% time savings per employee. The global consulting firm now spends 80%...
- CrashPlan PROe Security Because mobile laptops often are connected to unsecured networks, a very high standard of security is required to ensure privacy.
- Protecting Digitalized Assets in Healthcare Healthcare providers face an urgent, internal battle every day: security and compliance versus productivity and service. For most healthcare organizations, the fight is...
- Live Webcast LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- Make or Break: New Auto Products Must Go To Market On Time This Webcast quantifies the value of time to market for the auto industry and highlights how Primavera Enterprise Portfolio Management can help organizations. All Data Storage White Papers | Webcasts