Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Metamaterials could reduce friction in nanomachines

Abstract:
Ames Laboratory researchers discover repulsive Casimir effect

Metamaterials could reduce friction in nanomachines

Ames, IA | Posted on December 29th, 2009

Nanoscale machines expected to have wide application in industry, energy, medicine and other fields may someday operate far more efficiently thanks to important theoretical discoveries concerning the manipulation of famous Casimir forces that took place at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory.

The groundbreaking research, conducted through mathematical simulations, revealed the possibility of a new class of materials able to exert a repulsive force when they are placed in extremely close proximity to each other. The repulsive force, which harnesses a quantum phenomenon known as the Casimir effect, may someday allow nanoscale machines to overcome mechanical friction.

Though the frictional forces in nanoscale environments are small, they significantly inhibit the function of the tiny devices designed to operate in that realm, explained Costas Soukoulis, a senior physicist at the Ames Lab and Distinguished Professor of physics at Iowa State University, who led the research effort.

Soukoulis and his teammates, including Ames Laboratory assistant scientist Thomas Koschny, were the first to study the use of exotic materials known as chiral metamaterials as a way to harness the Casimir effect. Their efforts have demonstrated that it is indeed possible to manipulate the Casimir force. The findings were published in the Sept. 4, 2009 issue of Physical Review Letters, in an article entitled, "Repulsive Casimir Force in Chiral Metamaterials."

Understanding the importance of their discovery requires a basic understanding of both the Casimir effect and the unique nature of chiral metamaterials.

The Casimir effect was named after Dutch physicist Hendrik Casimir, who postulated its existence in 1948. Using quantum theory, Casimir predicted that energy should exist even in a vacuum, which can give rise to forces acting on the bodies brought into close proximity of each other. For the simple case of two parallel plates, he postulated that the energy density inside the gap should decrease as the size of the gap decreases, also meaning work must be done to pull the plates apart. Alternatively, an attractive force that pushes the plates closer together can be said to exist.

Casimir forces observed experimentally in nature have almost always been attractive and have rendered nanoscale and microscale machines inoperable by causing their moving parts to permanently stick together. This has been a long-standing problem that scientists working on such devices have struggled to overcome.

Remarkably, this new discovery demonstrates that a repulsive Casimir effect is possible using chiral metamaterials. Chiral materials share an interesting characteristic: their molecular structure prevents them from being superimposed over a reverse copy of themselves, in the same way a human hand cannot fit perfectly atop a reverse image of itself. Chiral materials are fairly common in nature. The sugar molecule (sucrose) is one example. However, natural chiral materials are incapable of producing a repulsive Casimir effect that is strong enough to be of practical use.

For that reason, the group turned its attention to chiral metamaterials, so named because they do not exist in nature and must instead be made in the lab. The fact that they are artificial gives them a unique advantage, commented Koschny. "With natural materials you have to take what nature gives you; with metamaterials, you can create a material to exactly meet your requirements," he said.

The chiral metamaterials the researchers focused on have a unique geometric structure that enabled them to change the nature of energy waves, such as those located in the gap between the two closely positioned plates, causing those waves to exert a repulsive Casimir force.

The present study was carried out using mathematical simulations because of the difficulties involved in fabricating these materials with semiconductor lithographic techniques. While more work needs to be done to determine if chiral materials can induce a repulsive Casimir force strong enough to overcome friction in nanoscale devices, practical applications of the Casimir effect are already under close study at other DOE facilities, including Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories. Both have expressed considerable interest in using the chiral metamaterials designed at Ames Laboratory to fabricate new structures and reduce the attractive Casimir force, and possibly to obtain a repulsive Casimir force.

Funding for this research was provided by the DOE Office of Science.

####

About Ames Laboratory
Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science research facility operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global challenges.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Mark Ingebretsen

515-294-3474

Copyright © Eurekalert

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 News Press

News and information

Strength of hair inspires new materials for body armor January 18th, 2017

Self-assembling particles brighten future of LED lighting January 18th, 2017

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

Nanoparticle exposure can awaken dormant viruses in the lungs January 17th, 2017

Physics

Seeing the quantum future... literally: What if big data could help you see the future and prevent your mobile phone from breaking before it happened? January 16th, 2017

NIST physicists 'squeeze' light to cool microscopic drum below quantum limit January 12th, 2017

First experimental proof of a 70 year old physics theory: First observation of magnetic phase transition in 2-D materials, as predicted by the Nobel winner Onsager in 1943 January 6th, 2017

Diamonds are technologists' best friends: Researchers from the Lomonosov Moscow State University have grown needle- and thread-like diamonds and studied their useful properties December 30th, 2016

NEMS

Leti Scientists Participating in Sessions on Med Tech, Automotive Technologies, MEMS, Si-photonics and Lithography at SEMICON Europa: Teams also Will Demonstrate Technology Advances in Telecom, Data Fusion, Energy, Silicon Photonics and 3D Integration October 18th, 2016

Integration of novel materials with silicon chips makes new 'smart' devices possible July 25th, 2016

Nano-photonics meets nano-mechanics: Controlling on-chip nano-optics by graphene nano-opto-mechanics January 22nd, 2016

Mechanical quanta see the light January 20th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Strength of hair inspires new materials for body armor January 18th, 2017

Self-assembling particles brighten future of LED lighting January 18th, 2017

Nanoscale view of energy storage January 16th, 2017

Chemistry on the edge: Experiments at Berkeley Lab confirm that structural defects at the periphery are key in catalyst function January 13th, 2017

Possible Futures

Strength of hair inspires new materials for body armor January 18th, 2017

Self-assembling particles brighten future of LED lighting January 18th, 2017

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

Nanoscale view of energy storage January 16th, 2017

MEMS

Manufacturing platform makes intricate biocompatible micromachines January 7th, 2017

STMicroelectronics Peps Up Booming Social-Fitness Scene with Smart Motion Sensors for Better Accuracy, Longer Battery Life, and Faster Time to Market January 2nd, 2017

Movable microplatform floats on a sea of droplets: New technique offers precise, durable control over tiny mirrors or stages December 19th, 2016

Vesper a Finalist for Two ACE Awards: Ultimate Products and Innovator of the Year -- Industry’s first piezoelectric MEMS microphone and Vesper CTO Bobby Littrell recognized for prestigious electronics-industry awards November 10th, 2016

Molecular Machines

Micro-bubbles make big impact: Research team develops new ultrasound-powered actuator to develop micro robot November 25th, 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

HKU chemists develop world's first light-seeking synthetic Nanorobot November 9th, 2016

Light drives single-molecule nanoroadsters: Rice University scientists part of international team demonstrating untethered 3-wheelers November 4th, 2016

Materials/Metamaterials

Strength of hair inspires new materials for body armor January 18th, 2017

Self-assembling particles brighten future of LED lighting January 18th, 2017

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

NUS researchers achieve major breakthrough in flexible electronics: New classes of printable electrically conducting polymer materials make better electrodes for plastic electronics and advanced semiconductor devices January 14th, 2017

Announcements

Strength of hair inspires new materials for body armor January 18th, 2017

Self-assembling particles brighten future of LED lighting January 18th, 2017

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

Nanoparticle exposure can awaken dormant viruses in the lungs January 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