Nanotubes enable molecular assembly line

April 29, 2004 | Source: KurzweilAI

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists have transformed carbon nanotubes into conveyor belts capable of ferrying atom-sized particles to microscopic worksites.

By applying a small electrical current to a carbon nanotube, they moved indium particles along the nanotube like auto parts on an assembly line.

Model of a nanoscale conveyer belt<br />
(courtesy of Zettl Research Group)

Model of a nanoscale conveyer belt
(courtesy of Zettl Research Group)

The method lays the groundwork for high-throughput molecular assembly of atomic-scale optical, electronic, and mechanical devices.

The ability to shuttle a stream of particles to precise locations fills a void that has stymied the efficient assembly of nanostructures. Mixing chemicals (solution chemistry) has grown sophisticated, but remains far too blunt to build atomic-scale devices, while manipulating individual atoms, using a scanning tunneling microscope, for instance, is precise but painstakingly slow and offers no way to swiftly deliver atoms to the work area.

Berkeley Lab Research News