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October 6th, 2005

Swimming strategies for nanobots

Richard Jones: Physics works differently at the nanoscale, and this means that design principles that are familiar in the macro-scale world may not work when shrunk. A great example of this is the problem of how you would propel a nanoscale swimmer through water. To a human-scale swimmer, water resists forward motion by virtue of the fact that it has inertia. But on the nanoscale, it is the viscosity of water that is the dominant factor. To imagine what it feels like trying to swim at the nanoscale, you need to imagine being immersed in a vat of the most sticky molasses.

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