Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

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

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Announces Availability of 45nm RF SOI to Advance 5G Mobile Communications: Optimized RF features deliver high-performance solutions for mmWave beam forming applications in 5G smartphones and base stations February 22nd, 2017

EmTech Asia breaks new barriers with potential applications of space exploration with NASA and MIT February 22nd, 2017

JPK selects compact tensile stage from Deben for their NanoWizard® AFM platform to broaden capabilities for materials characterisation February 22nd, 2017

Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility: Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Wa February 22nd, 2017

Videos/Movies

Graphene foam gets big and tough: Rice University's nanotube-reinforced material can be shaped, is highly conductive February 13th, 2017

First ever blueprint unveiled to construct a large scale quantum computer February 3rd, 2017

The shape of melting in two dimensions: University of Michigan team uses Titan to explore fundamental phase transitions February 2nd, 2017

Metallic hydrogen, once theory, becomes reality: Harvard physicists succeed in creating 'the holy grail of high-pressure physics' January 28th, 2017

Molecular Nanotechnology

First 3-D observation of nanomachines working inside cells: Researchers headed by IRB Barcelona combine genetic engineering, super-resolution microscopy and biocomputation to allow them to see in 3-D the protein machinery inside living cells January 27th, 2017

Captured on video: DNA nanotubes build a bridge between 2 molecular posts: Research may lead to new lines of direct communication with cells January 9th, 2017

Tip-assisted chemistry enables chemical reactions at femtoliter scale November 16th, 2016

Scientists come up with light-driven motors to power nanorobots of the future: Researchers from Russia and Ukraine propose a nanosized motor controlled by a laser with potential applications across the natural sciences and medicine November 11th, 2016

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes

Boron atoms stretch out, gain new powers: Rice University simulations demonstrate 1-D material's stiffness, electrical versatility January 26th, 2017

New stem cell technique shows promise for bone repair January 25th, 2017

Captured on video: DNA nanotubes build a bridge between 2 molecular posts: Research may lead to new lines of direct communication with cells January 9th, 2017

Nano-chimneys can cool circuits: Rice University scientists calculate tweaks to graphene would form phonon-friendly cones January 4th, 2017

Discoveries

Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility: Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Wa February 22nd, 2017

Tiny nanoclusters could solve big problems for lithium-ion batteries February 21st, 2017

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms: In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport February 20th, 2017

Materials/Metamaterials

EmTech Asia breaks new barriers with potential applications of space exploration with NASA and MIT February 22nd, 2017

Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility: Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Wa February 22nd, 2017

Tiny nanoclusters could solve big problems for lithium-ion batteries February 21st, 2017

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

Announcements

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Announces Availability of 45nm RF SOI to Advance 5G Mobile Communications: Optimized RF features deliver high-performance solutions for mmWave beam forming applications in 5G smartphones and base stations February 22nd, 2017

EmTech Asia breaks new barriers with potential applications of space exploration with NASA and MIT February 22nd, 2017

JPK selects compact tensile stage from Deben for their NanoWizard® AFM platform to broaden capabilities for materials characterisation February 22nd, 2017

Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility: Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Wa February 22nd, 2017

Tools

JPK selects compact tensile stage from Deben for their NanoWizard® AFM platform to broaden capabilities for materials characterisation February 22nd, 2017

Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility: Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Wa February 22nd, 2017

Strem Chemicals and Dotz Nano Ltd. Sign Distribution Agreement for Graphene Quantum Dots Collaboration February 21st, 2017

Engineers shrink microscope to dime-sized device February 17th, 2017

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