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rice U builds nano-car
March 14, 2006 1:31 PM   Subscribe

The Nano-Road is paved with gold.

Rice University built these single-molecule vehicles which measure just 4x3 nanometers and have four buckyball wheels connected to four independently rotating axles and a organic chemical chassis. They're also building a "nanotruck" which uses nitrogen atoms to be able to carry a payload.
posted by TeamBilly (34 comments total)


 
And since they've got extremely powerful nanotech motors now, too it's only a matter of time before everyone wants the Hemi version. ;-)
posted by TeamBilly at 1:37 PM on March 14, 2006


i love this nano stuff.. nano tubes will help build the first space elevator.
posted by obeygiant at 1:37 PM on March 14, 2006


They paved nano paradise and put up a nano parking lot...
posted by y2karl at 1:44 PM on March 14, 2006


Now, to build a bunch of tiny, tiny clowns ...
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:49 PM on March 14, 2006


Neat!
posted by brundlefly at 1:49 PM on March 14, 2006


Now, to build a bunch of tiny, tiny clowns ...

Dammit! I wish I'd thought of that one...
posted by TeamBilly at 1:50 PM on March 14, 2006


Not that I don't love science for science's sake, but can anyone tell me what practical applications (outside of electron microscope flea circuses) could come of this research?
posted by CRM114 at 1:55 PM on March 14, 2006


Well, how do they turn?

These are more like nano skates then nano cars, they just roll around.
posted by delmoi at 1:55 PM on March 14, 2006


Not that I don't love science for science's sake, but can anyone tell me what practical applications (outside of electron microscope flea circuses) could come of this research?

Tiny bearings?
posted by delmoi at 1:58 PM on March 14, 2006


CRM114 - think little robots you can inject into your bloodstream, it searches for cholesterol buildups and removes them.

Or an adjunct cybernetic immune system that's easier to train than your own.

Self-replicating smart "dust" that form communication and physical networks to become something macro-sized.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:59 PM on March 14, 2006



posted by Smedleyman at 2:03 PM on March 14, 2006


CRM114 - if you're interested in one possible use for space exploration, you ought to check out Robert Charles Wilson's Spin - which uses self-replicating nanobots to create a giant information-collecting apparatus in space. Pretty cool book overall, too.
posted by TeamBilly at 2:03 PM on March 14, 2006


That is pretty cool. ...granting we don't all turn into grey goo.
*smirk*
posted by Smedleyman at 2:04 PM on March 14, 2006


No clowns mr_crash_davis, but will jesters do instead?
posted by 999 at 2:32 PM on March 14, 2006


Waiting anxiously for Smart Paper to become cheap and ubiquitous...
posted by pax digita at 2:33 PM on March 14, 2006


scary. I can already feel them inside of me!
posted by Zendogg at 3:03 PM on March 14, 2006


What kind of milage do these nano vehicles get?
posted by SirOmega at 3:17 PM on March 14, 2006


Cool! We are within sight of a von Neumann probe, the only real way we'll explore the universe! Nanotech could do that.

This concept has been explored a zillion times in fiction (and some serious scientific inquiry). I've always found it sort of elegant that the only way two intellegent extraterrestrial species could possibly interact would be millenia after their extinction, when two self-replicating networks touch each other across the "billions and billions" of light years.
posted by elendil71 at 3:19 PM on March 14, 2006


PurplePorpoise: all that stuff is great and I think we'll get there but thinking molecular is too small for most of that. On the order of white-blood-cell size is probably better for the first two, and, well, dust-sized would be good for the other one.

One thing to keep in mind is that nothing molecule sized is going to be able to do ANY kind of computing at all.

I still think it's cool though.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:24 PM on March 14, 2006


Grey goo on wheels! Vroom! Vroom!
posted by roguescout at 3:46 PM on March 14, 2006


One thing to keep in mind is that nothing molecule sized is going to be able to do ANY kind of computing at all.

Could you clarify on what you mean by that? Not a big fan of quantum computing I take it?
posted by ozomatli at 3:46 PM on March 14, 2006


ozomatli: I should have said, any significant computing. Further, although quantum computing is neat, and theoretically the computing bits are subatomic particles, the support system is anything but small. Look into how quantum computing is typically accomplished... liquid helium, superconductors, trapped ions in magnetic fields, nuclear magnetic resonance. Some of these may some day be miniaturized to the point where one molecule might represent "something" that can do computing on it's own, but I still think that most usable computers will have a functional size limit larger than a single molecule.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:06 PM on March 14, 2006


Interestingly, though, what I think will be amusing is that nanotechnology is going to make computer scientists solve problems that have long been abandonded due to irrelevance since the 40s and 50s, i.e. how to make nano bots do interesting things with EXTREMELY limited computing/storage/IO resources. I remember when I first read Sorting and Searching by Knuth and realized why it was that the first sorting algorithms you learn require that you are able to sort in place without random memory access (magnetic and paper tapes!)
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:09 PM on March 14, 2006


I see what you are saying, to me the cpu is in effect computer. So while yes, the actual computations take place in a small volume, the power supply and whatnot makes up the majority of the size. In my opinion the major challenges facing quantum computing are the micro/macro interface and scaling issues.

BTW, there is some interesting research (shameless plug) involving using cold Rydberg atoms to perform logical operations.
posted by ozomatli at 4:19 PM on March 14, 2006


Is this science by press release? I didn't see any link to primary literature in the main link. Am I blind?
posted by u2604ab at 4:49 PM on March 14, 2006


I'm starting the peak nano-oil and nano-SUV bashing bandwagons right now, who's with me?
posted by darukaru at 5:52 PM on March 14, 2006


Not that I don't love science for science's sake, but can anyone tell me what practical applications (outside of electron microscope flea circuses) could come of this research?

Well, duh--nanoscopic machines that reproduce faster than DNA and consume all the matter in the Earth's crust!
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:45 PM on March 14, 2006


u2604ab — see the Rice research paper Directional Control in Thermally Driven Single-Molecule Nanocars, October 2005 (link to PDF version here.)
posted by cenoxo at 8:46 PM on March 14, 2006


can someone have these nano things build me some doritos? i'm all out.
posted by RTQP at 2:01 AM on March 15, 2006


Awesome! I feel them crawling on my skin already.
posted by OmieWise at 6:19 AM on March 15, 2006


CRM114 writes "can anyone tell me what practical applications (outside of electron microscope flea circuses) could come of this research?"

As good as the nano scale machines clean plaque is the advances nano technology will make on macro scale materials science. Imagine a steel bar whose carbon-iron matrix was perfect. Cast iron that doesn't have to be aged to relieve stresses. A silicon-bronze casting that has been built up atom by atom to maximize strength and corrosion resistance. Carbon fibre perfectly aligned to maximize local strength within a resin that follows curves without thinning out. If we can make it cheap enough it will revolutionize every thing made. It's the difference between a flashlight and a laser.
posted by Mitheral at 7:44 AM on March 15, 2006


(spitting hairs: Bad title, it has no engine, so more like nano-wagon than nano-car)
But this is a huge achievement, I welcome our nano-car servants? or masters.
posted by uni verse at 8:45 AM on March 15, 2006


cenoxo- Thanks!
posted by u2604ab at 8:45 AM on March 15, 2006


I've learned more about nanotechnology from this thread than I did from reading Prey.
posted by CRM114 at 10:17 AM on March 15, 2006


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