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May 18th, 2005
The world of the very small is about to receive a very powerful engine. Berkeley Lab scientists have created the world's smallest electric motor that may someday power nanoscale devices that walk, crawl, swim, and fly.
Although it is too early too determine what the motor will propel — perhaps probes that deliver disease-fighting drugs inside the body or winging nanobots that sniff out explosives — it packs a big kick in its tiny frame. The motor measures only 200 nanometers long, but its power density is 100 million times greater than that of a 225-horsepower V6 engine. It draws its enormous power from surface tension, the same cohesive force between liquid molecules that allows bubbles to form and insects to walk on water.
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