Nanoclusters that diffuse laser beams or create 3D telepresence

August 31, 2012 by Amara D. Angelica

Atomic clusters of metals are an emerging class of extremely interesting materials occupying the intermediate size regime between atoms and nanoparticles. (credit: Reji Philip et al./Nano Letters)

Think of the possibilities.

University of Central Florida assistant professor  Jayan Thomas, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University Associate Professor Rongchao Jin, has developed a new material based on gold nanoparticles smaller than 2 nanometers, in a regime between atoms and nanoparticles called nanoclusters.

Thomas and his team found that nanoclusters developed by adding atoms in a sequential manner could provide interesting new optical properties that make them suitable for creating surfaces that would diffuse laser beams of high energy.

Protecting pilots and instruments from laser beams

Think of commercial pilots or fighter pilots’ glasses or helmet shield could be coated with nanoclusters that potentially diffuse high-energy beams of light, such as laser beams.

Highly sensitive instruments needed for navigation and other applications could also be protected in case of an enemy attack using high-energy laser beams.

Real time 3D telepresence 

Thomas is also exploring the use of these particles in the polymer material used for 3D telepresence to make it more sensitive to light. If successful, it can take current polymers a step closer to developing real time 3D telepresence.

3D-Telepresence, aka the holodeck, would provide a holographic illusion to a viewer who is present in another location by giving that person a 360-degree view (in 3D) of everything that’s going on. It’s a step beyond 3-D and is expected to revolutionize the way people see television and in how they participate in activities around the world. For example, by allowing a viewer to “walk around” a remote location as if in a virtual game, a surgeon could help execute a complicated medical procedure from thousands of miles away.

Others who contributed to the new material include: Reji Philip from the UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, Panit Chantharasupawong from UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics, and Huifeng Qian from Department of Chemistry at the Carnegie Mellon University.

I wonder what would happen if they combined this with a metamaterial? A diffusion-based cloaking device?

Foglets

Foglet (credit: J. Storrs Hall)

Taking the a step research further out, in 1993 J. Storrs Hall conceived the idea of utility fog, consisting of a swarm of nanobots (“foglets”) that can take the shape of virtually anything, and change shape on the fly.

Perhaps Thomas’ nanoclusters could one day be developed into self-assembling modules that actualize Storrs’ concept — and take it from the micron level down to the nanometer level?

In Utility Fog: The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of, Storrs suggested that an appropriate mass of Utility Fog can be programmed to “simulate most of the physical properties of any macroscopic object (including air and water), to roughly the same precision those properties are measured by human senses.

That could include cars, houses, and just about any other object. “The pattern you both set your houses to could be anything, including a computer-generated illusion. In this way, Utility Fog can act as a transparent interface between ‘cyberspace’ and physical reality.”

“Consider the application of Utility Fog to a task such as telepresence. The worksite is enclosed in a cloud of Fog, which simulates the hands of the operators to assemble the parts and manipulate tools. The operator is likewise completely embedded in Fog. Here, the Fog simulates the objects that are at the worksite, and allows the operator to manipulate them.”

So what would you do with nanocluster foglets?

 

 

 

Amara D. Angelica is Editor of KurzweilAI