Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nano-Nano

If you thought wiring up your speaker system was tricky, try connecting everything when the wires you're using are about 1/2000th the width of a human hair. Machines this small fall in the realm of nanotechnology; electronics that are a less than one ten-thousandths of a millimeter in size. That's really tiny.

Yesterday scientists announced that they have developed a method to efficiently solder two wires together using a filament much smaller than the size of a cell. Dubbed "nanowelding," this new process is a major step forward for the field, making it much easier to build usable circuits for these tiny devises.

The new method works similarly to normal sized methods of soldering circuits together. A piece of wire is laid across two terminals while a small electrical current runs through the wire. The current melts the wire, forming a bond that is both strong and can conduct electricity. To show off the new technique, technicians formed the word "NANO" and the Chinese symbol for "human being" out of gold wires only 55 nanometers in diameter.

Nanotechnology is a subject with a lot of promise across a variety of fields. One of the areas its small size shows the greatest amount of potential is in medicine. If machines can be made smaller than a cell, it's possible they could be used to target infections and tumors on a microscopic level. Consumer electronics can also benefit tremendously from the field. Electronics can be designed to take up less room, weigh less and use less energy. Just think how small cell phones could get!

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