Learning English - Words in the News
13 June, 2005 - Published 10:50 GMT
Tiny robot cleaners
Researchers in Troy, New York, have made the world's smallest brushes, with bristles a thousand times thinner than a human hair. They're guaranteed to sweep clean the tiny world of nanotechnology. This report from Roland Pease:
Brushes, brooms and hairy fly swats are probably among the first tools fashioned by humans. Certainly, an ancient paint brush used by a prehistoric cave artist survives from 30,000 years ago. So it's fitting that miniature versions of these should adorn the burgeoning field of nanotechnology.
The bristles of these new nanobrushes are made of tiny carbon filaments thirty billionths of a metre across and a few millionths long. The brush handles they're attached to are comparatively large - thicker than a human hair! The researchers have taken microscope pictures showing the brushes can be used to sweep up tiny pieces of nanodust on dirty surfaces - particles that would escape any normal brush.
The researchers also used their brushes to paint microstructures; and by coating the hairs with absorbent compounds, they could soak up toxins from water. If the tiny tools prove robust enough, they could one day find medical uses painting protective materials onto tiny parts in our bodies - or sweeping away unwanted crud.
Roland Pease, BBC Science Correspondent
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