Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Tiny robots get a grip on nanotubes

Abstract:
How do you handle the tiny components needed for constructing nanoscale devices? A European consortium has built two microrobotic demonstrators that can automatically pick up and install carbon nanotubes thousands of times thinner than a human hair.

Carbon nanotubes, rolled up sheets of carbon only a few tens of nanometres in diameter, could become an essential part of the nanotechnologist's construction kit. But there is a problem: how can you handle objects which are so thin that they cannot be seen at all with a normal optical microscope?

Tiny robots get a grip on nanotubes

Europe | Posted on August 17th, 2009

"The handling and characterisation of these objects has become more and more important in materials science and nanotechnology," says Volkmar Eichhorn of the University of Oldenburg and its associated institute, OFFIS. "They have a huge application potential in various products."

One solution, developed by the EU-funded NanoHand project, is to use mobile microrobots equipped with delicate handling tools. NanoHand builds on the work of ROBOSEM, an earlier EU project that developed the basic technologies that are now being put into effect.

The robots, about two centimetres in size, work inside a scanning electron microscope where their activities can be followed by an observer. "The whole set-up is integrated into the vacuum chamber of the microscope," Eichhorn explains. "There is a glass plate where these mobile microrobots can walk around."
Microgrippers

Each robot has a ‘microgripper' that can make precise and delicate movements. It works on an electrothermal principle to open and close the jaws, much like a pair of tweezers.

The jaws open to about 2 micrometres and can pick up objects less than 100 nanometres in size. "[It is] really able to grip micro or even nano objects," Eichhorn says. "We have handled objects down to tens of nanometres."

At that scale, the intermolecular forces between objects are stronger than gravity. Once a nanotube has been picked up it will stick to the jaws of the gripper and cannot easily be dropped into position. The team have had to develop novel ‘pick-and-place' techniques to get around this problem.

One approach is to glue the tube in its final position using electron beam-induced deposition. Another is to use geometrical principles to ensure that the intermolecular forces pulling the tube towards its intended location are greater than those holding it in the jaws of the gripper.

"Worldwide, we are the first project that has really realised the automated microgripper-based pick-and-place experiments," Eichhorn notes. "The new thing is the high accuracy and the small scale of the objects - in the range of tens or hundreds of nanometres - and the excellent control and software architecture being built around this whole set-up facilitating a high degree of automation."
Better microscope

An early success of the project was to improve the performance of an atomic force microscope, a workhorse of nanotechnology.

The microscope ‘feels' a surface by dragging a fine probe over it. Individual atoms can be sensed and a picture built up. But conventional probes have a pyramid-shaped tip which cannot follow the hills and valleys of deeply corrugated surfaces. The NanoHand team used their microrobots to automatically pick up a carbon nanotube and attach it to the tip, so greatly improving the probe's ability to sense deep valleys.

This achievement was made with the ‘NanoLab' demonstrator, designed for use in experimental laboratory situations.

In parallel, the industrial partners have developed a more robust ‘NanoFab' demonstrator, better suited to the needs of industry. They are exploring how the technology could be used for rapid prototyping of new designs for microchips. One idea is to use carbon nanotubes as ‘interconnects', the fine wires that make the electrical connections to a chip. Because of their high electrical conductivity, carbon nanotubes dissipate less heat than copper and allow circuits to be packed more densely.

This application is of particular interest to STMicroelectronics, one of the project partners and a heavyweight maker of microchips. "They would like to have a nanorobotic system where they can do fast and rapid characterisation of these devices," says Eichhorn. "Up to now, it was a manual, teleoperated characterisation which was very time consuming."
Early exploitation

Many other industrial applications are possible, including novel devices that could not be constructed any other way. Applications in composite materials, displays and new kinds of transistors are all being talked about.

Other groups are working on methods of handling nanotubes, especially in the USA, Japan and China, but the NanoHand system of microrobots and microgrippers is proving effective and reliable. "It's very promising for nanotechnology applications," says Eichhorn.

From the start, the project has been run with commercialisation in mind and the first product is already on the market. Two of the industrial partners, Tescan and Klocke Nanotechnik, are collaborating to sell a scanning electron microscope equipped with a nanopositioning system based on NanoHand technology.

The Technical University of Denmark (DTU Nanotech) intends to set up a spin-off to market the microgrippers and the Ecoles Polytechniques Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is seeking to further develop the microrobots to the point where they can be commercialised.

NanoHand received funding from the ICT strand of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research.

####

For more information, please click here

Copyright © ITC Results

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Video

Related News Press

News and information

Tissue regeneration using anti-inflammatory nanomolecules August 22nd, 2014

A breakthrough in imaging gold nanoparticles to atomic resolution by electron microscopy August 22nd, 2014

Ultra-short pulse lasers & Positioning August 21st, 2014

Malvern’s Dr Alan Rawle talks TLAs in plenary lecture at Particulate Systems Analysis conference August 21st, 2014

Videos/Movies

The channel that relaxes DNA: Relaxing DNA strands by using nano-channels: Instructions for use August 20th, 2014

“Active” surfaces control what’s on them: Researchers develop treated surfaces that can actively control how fluids or particles move August 6th, 2014

New Method Provides Nanoscale Details of Electrochemical Reactions in Electric Vehicle Battery Materials August 4th, 2014

Nanostructured metal-oxide catalyst efficiently converts CO2 to methanol: Highly reactive sites at interface of 2 nanoscale components could help overcome hurdle of using CO2 as a starting point in producing useful products July 31st, 2014

Molecular Nanotechnology

Optimum inertial design for self-propulsion: A new study investigates the effects of small but finite inertia on the propulsion of micro and nano-scale swimming machines July 29th, 2014

Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014

NIST shows ultrasonically propelled nanorods spin dizzyingly fast July 22nd, 2014

University of Illinois researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas July 14th, 2014

Nanotubes/Buckyballs

Iranian Scientists Stabilize Protein on Highly Stable Electrode Surface August 14th, 2014

SouthWest NanoTechnologies Appoints Matteson-Ridolfi for U.S. Distribution of its SMW™ Specialty Multiwall Carbon Nanotubes August 13th, 2014

Immune cells get cancer-fighting boost from nanomaterials August 13th, 2014

SouthWest NanoTechnologies Inc. Announces $2.7 Million in New Financing to Fund Growth, Plant Expansion and Technical Personnel August 11th, 2014

Discoveries

Tissue regeneration using anti-inflammatory nanomolecules August 22nd, 2014

A breakthrough in imaging gold nanoparticles to atomic resolution by electron microscopy August 22nd, 2014

Shaping the Future of Nanocrystals: Berkeley Lab Researchers Obtain First Direct Observation of Facet Formation in Nanocubes August 21st, 2014

Water window imaging opportunity: A new theoretical study elucidates mechanisms that could help in producing coherent radiations, ultimately promoting high-contrast imaging of biological samples August 21st, 2014

Materials/Metamaterials

Shaping the Future of Nanocrystals: Berkeley Lab Researchers Obtain First Direct Observation of Facet Formation in Nanocubes August 21st, 2014

Rice physicist emerges as leader in quantum materials research: Nevidomskyy wins both NSF CAREER Award and Cottrell Scholar Award August 20th, 2014

Promising Ferroelectric Materials Suffer From Unexpected Electric Polarizations: Brookhaven Lab scientists find surprising locked charge polarizations that impede performance in next-gen materials that could otherwise revolutionize data-driven devices August 18th, 2014

Nano Bonds Increase Raw Strength of Fireproof Concretes August 18th, 2014

Announcements

Tissue regeneration using anti-inflammatory nanomolecules August 22nd, 2014

A breakthrough in imaging gold nanoparticles to atomic resolution by electron microscopy August 22nd, 2014

Malvern’s Dr Alan Rawle talks TLAs in plenary lecture at Particulate Systems Analysis conference August 21st, 2014

Water window imaging opportunity: A new theoretical study elucidates mechanisms that could help in producing coherent radiations, ultimately promoting high-contrast imaging of biological samples August 21st, 2014

Tools

A breakthrough in imaging gold nanoparticles to atomic resolution by electron microscopy August 22nd, 2014

Hiden Release New Gas Analysis Catalogue August 21st, 2014

Wyatt Technology’s 24th International Light Scattering Colloquium to Highlight Developments in Applications and Characterization of Nanoparticles August 21st, 2014

Ultra-short pulse lasers & Positioning August 21st, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE