If nanotechnology has one clear image in the collective pop-culture consciousness, it is that of nanorobots, nanoscale machines capable of performing mechanical functions. When considering the potential of such a technology, the more astute may ask themselves: How would you manage to direct the movements of these nanorobots?
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have discovered a physical phenomenon in the way that semiconductor nanoparticles interact with light when under the influence of an electric field that may answer that question.
In research described in the journal Science Advances, the University of Texas scientists discovered that the strong interactions of light, semiconductor nanoparticles, and electric fields lead to the efficient reconfigurable operation of semiconductor nanomotors, or nanodevices.
Using only optical microscopy, the researchers could distinguish between semiconductor silicon and gold nanoparticles by observing their mechanical responses to light. This method is contactless and cheap compared with traditional measurement techniques.