Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles This episode of DNews is brought to you by the U.S. Air Force. Tiny robots of the future will need tiny batteries, tiny cameras and tiny motors, and scientists of today are working on them RIGHT NOW. Futurist Ray Kurzweil has been quoted saying that in 25 years, the computer in your phone will be millions of times more powerful, but will be the size of a blood cell. New nano-engineering is helping scientists build the robot which that computer could drive… At the moment, when I think of crazy robots, I think of the DARPA Big Dog or BINA48. But because of this new technique, future robots could be the size of specks of dust or smaller! Engineers in China and Australia have created a double-walled carbon nanotube motor! They published their findings in the journal Nanotechnology, and believe this could be a big player in future nanodevices. We've talked about graphene before -- a super strong one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms. When you roll them into a tiny tube, you get a carbon nanotube. Carbon nanotubes are exceptionally strong, but when you roll TWO that fit together, the engineers believe, a nanomotor could result. At the macro-level motors run when a magnetic device is spun inside a tube of electrical wire. The current in the wire creates a magnetic flux which pulls the inner magnet around, running the motor. But at the nano-level? No way is that gonna work, Jack. You can't solder a wire onto the outer tube, and run electricity, so instead this double-walled carbon nanotube motor works, because at the atomic level, there's a thing called a "van der Waals interaction." A van der Waals interaction describe how atoms interact with each other due to electrical charge, which makes perfect sense when talking about nano-scale motor engineering. In this case, when the researchers put the two tubes together to these atomic forces caused the inner nanotube to spin! Then they had to figure out how to CONTROL that spin, because a spinning tube isn't of much use on it's own. The researchers messed with the length of the outer tube to change speed, and found the ideal amount of space between the inner and outer tubes to encourage rotation, but in the end temperature is the keystone. At a fairly warm room temperature -- 300 Kelvin (27C/80F) -- the amount of kinetic energy or about f they regulate the temperature of the room they can change the speed of the rotation! Obviously, their goal is to create a temperature-driven motor made of double-walled carbon nanotubes -- so we'll have to see where this goes. Nano-scale engineering isn't new, but the idea of making a nanomotor is pretty novel. Nano means 10 to the negative ninth power… Or, one one billionth of a meter. It's pretty small. Working at that scale requires extreme precision and if engineers can master the skills, then it's only a matter of time before Ray Kurzweil's blood cell computer is put into a blood cell nanoelectromechanical system. We could augment our immune systems, rebuild our bodies or even ingest new technologies! Who knows!! The future is going to be a crazy place. And I’m happy scientists are keeping their eyes on it. You know who else is always looking at the future? The brave men and women in the United States Air Force! American Airmen are fueled by innovation, and every day they go above and beyond to break barriers both professionally and personally. So, a big shout out to the U.S. Air Force for supporting DNews. What do you think of all this? Freaked out by a microscopic robot or excited?