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March 9th, 2008
Many readers of this site will know that a large amount of research in physics is devoted toward miniaturization, specifically at an atomic level, referred to as nanotechnology. Engineering feats at this level require an intense amount of precision and also innovation to develop technology that can manipulate matter on such small scales. Two such innovations working together have come out of the University of Texas at Austin (with, as always, collaborations with other institutions).
The first is an "atomic coilgun," which runs a beam of particles through a solenoid (see "WiTricity - Power Without Wires" for more on solenoids). The beam of particles are going "against" the magnetic force, so it is slowing the atoms in the beam down until they eventually become trapped.
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