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Surprising Science

Super-Nanomachines Made of Diamond

Wear and tear presents a unique problem for nanomachines since the devices are far too small for technicians to swap in spare parts. The solution? Make them out of diamonds. 

What’s the Latest Development?


To prevent wear and tear on microscopic machines made from nanotechnology, scientists are learning how to make them out of diamond, the world’s hardest substance. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (N.I.S.T.) is learning to use corrosive chemicals to etch small boxes into the face of diamond with a high degree of precision. “The divots are so exact that they could easily become the teeth of gears, or some other component of a nanoscale machine.” Diamond can also vibrate at very high frequencies, which electronic consumer devices demand. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Advocates of nanotechnology claim that the use of microscopic machines, typically about the size of a red blood cell, will soon be a part of everyday life. Industries that could utilize the technology range from medicine to consumer electronics, where small size offers big advantages. “The N.I.S.T. team created cavities ranging in width from one to 72 micrometers, each with smooth vertical sidewalls and a flat bottom. For comparison, a human hair is about 100 micrometers thick.” The chemical process used by the team has yet to be optimized. 


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