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‘NanoManipulator’ allows nanoscale touch & feel

from the physical-chemistry-like-tinker-toys dept.
Bryan Hall writes "According to an article on physicists in North Carolina have a system that can be used rapidly create nano-level experiments. The equipment uses virtual reality technology and a microscopic probe that allow scientists to touch and feel tiny particles. The nanoManipulator team has learned many of the physical rules that govern the movement of nano-sized objects. For example, with small particles, gravity doesnít matter, but physics rules for full-sized objects about friction and stickiness make a great deal of difference. The physicists have also been studying nanotubes in detail. Sometimes they lay out the nanotubes like a game of pick up sticks and push them around with a probe to see how well they roll and bend. The group has learned that rows of atoms in the nanotubes can be made to work like gear teeth. Scientist Sean Washburn says, "The nanoManipulator reduces physical chemistry into a game of tinker toys.""

4 Responses to “‘NanoManipulator’ allows nanoscale touch & feel”

  1. Iron Sun Says:

    Credit card ready for Virtual NanoLego

    Woo hoo! This is just the sort of area I want to get involved in. Bugger Mindstorms, I wanna play with this.

    One question, though. When they say that gravity isn't important, on what scale do they mean, that of individual molecules, or of larger structures like virii or bacteria? I remember reading about results of life science experiments carried on the Space Shuttle that seemed to indicate that the cross-linked microtubules that act as a bacterium's internal scaffolding do not seem to form properly in the absence of gravity, a result that surprised researchers. It may be that it is such a subtle effect that it is not apparent when you are pushing buckytubes around, but it may influence more advanced self assembly.

  2. yuvalro Says:

    Rapid prototyping enables use of Genetic Algorithm

    If you can play around with the atoms in a 3D environment, can anyone think of a reason not to program some Genetic Algorithm that will play around with the system and try to come up with useful building blocks? Hellllo physicists…

    I think this device is supercool.

    I didn't understand what the reason is for the limited range on telepresence. Can't they use some sort of interpolation?

  3. naoursla Says:


    The nanoManipulator is based on a product called PHANTOM that came out of the MIT AI lab. UNC has integrated this feedback devices with a STM's and AFM.

  4. Doug Schiff Says:


    Readers might be interested to know that the NanoManipulator technology discussed in this article has been licensed by 3rdTech, Inc., productized, and is now commercially available. More information is available at

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