Thursday, January 08, 2009

Frictionless Surfaces on the Horizon?

U.S. scientists have found a way to levitate the very smallest objects using the strange forces of quantum mechanics, and said on Wednesday they might use it to help make tiny nanotechnology machines.

They said they had detected and measured a force that comes into play at the molecular level using certain combinations of molecules that repel one another.

The repulsion can be used to hold molecules aloft, in essence levitating them, creating virtually friction-free parts for tiny devices, the researchers said.

Federico Capasso, an applied physicist at Harvard University in Massachusetts, whose study appears in the journal Nature, said he believed that detection of this force opened the possibility of a whole new class of tiny gadgets.

The team, including researchers at the National Institutes of Health, has not yet levitated an object, but Capasso said he now knows how to do it. "This is an experiment we are sure will work," he said. His team has already filed for patents.

Interesting. Let's see if it pans out.

If it can be applied to macroscopic objects and the power requirements are less than the cost of traveling on a road with wheels, life could get really interesting for, say, trains. No friction (or little friction) would reduce some expense a bit.

Talk about sfnal.

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