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  • 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 driveAt 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 powerOr, 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?

This episode of DNews is brought to you by the U.S. Air Force.

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