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Researchers Build Nano Train, Motor and Track from CNT Pair

by Editor1 last modified April 29, 2008 - 21:33

An international research team is using carbon nanotubes to build a nano-freight train – complete with a railbed to run on.

Researchers Build Nano Train, Motor and Track from CNT Pair

Nano freight train, motor and track made complete from CNTs.

The team, from Austria, Spain and Switzerland reported successful trials of a 500 nm trip, where the nanoscale "train” carried its first nano-payload along the CNT tracks at speeds averaging 0.1 nm/second. The work, which describes the nano monorail carrying a 250 nm gold particle, was published this month is the journal Science as “Subnanometer Motion of Cargoes Driven by Thermal Gradients along Carbon Nanotubes.

Previous nanomotors could only rotate around one axis. The new device is designed to move in both directions, and even rotate. It is driven by the heat energy from the electric current flowing through the nanotube,” Adrian Bachtold to New Scientist; he is from the Institut Català de Nanotecnologia in Barcelona, Spain, who worked on the device. When current is applied a temperature gradient forms, leaving the middle of the rail nanotube at more than 1000 ºC, with either end at just 27 ºC.

The device was made from carbon-rich material charged with electricity. This grows an initial pair of nested nanotubes. In turn, the team again ran a large electric current through the nested pair, making the outer layer come free from the one nested inside. From this, the team created a shorter, free-moving carriage.

"The beautiful thing about this device is that the friction between the two nanotubes is very small – the surfaces are almost atomically smooth," Bachtold added.