Nano-scale robotics is getting closer and closer. Scientists at A*STAR in Singapore have created a nano-gear that's 1.2 nanometers across, or a few atoms wide. That's ten thousand times smaller than the ones pictured here, next to a dust mite.
The gear is made of carbon compounds and can freely rotate around a central axis. The A*STAR team can control the rotation of the molecular gear using a Scanning Tunneling Microscope. It's the smallest molecular gear yet made, and since its rotation is controlled and not random, scientists are calling it a break-through in nanotechnology.
This first step could lead to limitless possible applications, including complex robots no larger than a grain of sand. Or maybe this is just another step towards the inevitable "gray goo" panic. Either way, this discovery could mean working robots that are only a few molecules across or machines that can travel along strands of DNA in the near future.
(Image: Sandia National Laboratories.)