They create an engine a million times smaller than an ant
It is the smallest engine in the world and its size would be comparable to an ant reduced to one millionth.
A team of scientists from the prestigious University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, have created what they claim is the smallest engine in the world. Its size, which would be a million times smaller than that of an ant, falls within the nanoscale, as it could not be otherwise. In these dimensions that escape the human eye there are no pistons or propulsion pumps and there is only the possibility of play with chemistry mechanics.
The development carried out by the Cambridge researchers is based on three fundamental elements: the use of gold particles, an aqueous polymer gel and the use of laser.
The scientists embedded the gold particles in the polymer gel and then projected the laser onto it. The effect of the beam heats the gel so that the water it contains is expelled from the set, so that gold particles get closer to each other. This approach is intensified by the forces of Van der Waals.
The principle of the Van der Waals forces determines the attraction between neutral molecules and in this case it has enough force to finish binding the gold particles. However, when the polymer gel cools again absorbs water and gold particles separate violently. One of the authors who signed the paper (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Tao Ding, describes this process as an explosion.
What happens at that moment is that hundreds of gold particles jump into the air in one millionth of a second when they are fired by the entrance of the water. This process can be repeated over and over again, so that it is created a movement of constant concentration and expansion, similar to that found in a mechanical spring.
Scientists believe that this process can be used to power a nanoscale engine, so that mechanical movement could be provided to a very small structure. Although the progress is remarkable, the real applications that this development can have at this time are yet to be seen. Although the researchers are not reluctant to mention the creation of ‘nanobots’.
Pictures: Krzysiek and seejayarr