Sunday, May 22, 2016

Week 8: Nanotechnology and Art

Nanotechnology primarily involves the assembly and manipulation of function systems at the molecular scale, from anywhere between 1 to 100 nanometers. While its concept, namely synthesis of molecules by direct manipulation of atoms, were first discussed and publicized by Physicist Richard Feynman in his 1969 talk "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom", the term "nanotechnology" wasn't coined until 1974, by Japanese Professor Norio Taniguchi. Though perhaps somewhat fortuitously, the first demonstration where nanotechnology was ostensibly applied is found in the Lycurgus Cup, which was made with small proportions of gold and silver nanoparticles distributed across the cup. Due to the presence of these nanoparticules, the Cup is able to display different colors depending on whether light is passing through. 
The Lycurgus Cup: green when light shines from in front, red when from the back
Given the modern notion of nanotechnology, and the fact that the Cup is a 4th century Roman artifact, the process in which it is made remains unclear, and may therefore be accidental, with the craftsman not even being aware of the presence of gold. Nevertheless, the Lycurgus Cup remains the first piece of artwork whose roots are deeply entwined with nanotechnology. 

In Dr Gimzewski's lecture, another scientist and engineer that is notable in the history of nanotechnology is Dr Eric Drexler, who arguably wrote the first scholarly article on the topic, and is known for popularizing its potential. In his book <Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology>, Drexler pondered the idea of a molecular assembler, one that is able to assemble molecular machines of arbitrary complexity. His vision of nanotechnology , one that revolves primarily around these molecular machines, however, was deemed "naive" by Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley , who put forth a number of arguments against Drexler. Since the conclusion of the debate in 2003, there have been quite a number of successful experiments that were in fact able to synthesize machine-like molecules. A notable example would the nanocar, developed by Rice Professor James Tour to demonstrate whether fullerenes slide or roll on a metal surface. 
Nanocar rolling across a surface
Another recent discovery is the conceptualization of the carbon nanotube oscillator. In such a system, a inner nanotube structure (such as C60) is placed within an outer carbon nanotube, and is shown to able to oscillate naturally, due to the van der Waals' forces between the two. Though there are still many challenges in order to realize such conceptualizations experimentally, understanding the mechanical properties of these simple molecular systems is definitely crucial for building larger molecular machines.
Schematics of the nanotube oscillator

1. "Nanotech Jim pt 1-6." YouTube. Web. 22 May 2016.>

2. "Lycurgus Cup". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, n.d. Web. 22 May. 2016.

3. "K. Eric Drexler". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, n.d. Web. 22 May. 2016.

4. "Nanocars". James Tour. James Tour Group. N.d. Web 22 May 2016.<>

5. "Simulating Molecular Dynamics of Nanotube-based Structures". Yong-Wei Zhang. NUS Materials Science and Engineering. 1 Feb 2010. Web. 22 May 2016. 

1 comment:

  1. I thought you had many detailed and thought provoking ideas. You gave a very specific descriptions of what happened in the lecture. I agree with all of your ideas and touched on many of the same concepts.