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April 25th, 2008
Researchers from the Spanish National Research Council, Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona, and the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology claim to have created the first nanomotor that is moved by changes in temperature.
The carbon nanotube is capable of transporting cargo and rotating like a conventional motor, but is a million times smaller than the head of a needle. This research is said to open the door to the creation of new nano-scale devices designed to carry out mechanical tasks, which, in the future, could be applied to the fields of biomedicine or new materials.
The 'nanotransporter' consists of a carbon nanotube - a cylindrical molecule formed by carbon atoms - covered with a shorter concentric nanotube that can move back and forth or act as a rotor.
A metal cargo can be added to the shorter mobile tube, which could then transport this cargo from one end to the other of the longer tube or rotate it around its axis.
Researchers are able to control these movements by applying different temperatures at the two ends of the long nanotube. The shorter mobile tube thus moves from the warmer to the colder area in a similar manner to the way in which air moves around a heater. This is believed to be the first time a nanometre-sized motor has been created that can use changes in temperature to generate and control movements.
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