More than 50 years ago, at a meeting of the American Physical Society hosted by Caltech, Richard Feynman gave a talk called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” In his visionary speech, Feynman discussed the technological promise of tiny machines as small as a few atoms. This promise has grown into a full-fledged discipline we now know as nanoscience, and it is the subject of TEDxCaltech’s last session, “Nanoscience and Future Biology.”
Caltech scientists recently demonstrated a robot that is capable of following a trail of chemical breadcrumbs. The surprising twist: the robot consists of a single molecule. The three-legged "molecular spider" can traverse a DNA origami landscape from one end to the other (albeit rather ploddingly), turning corners as needed and stopping when it reaches its destination. Graduate student Nadine Dabby will describe the tiny traveler at January's TEDxCaltech conference, where she is a featured speaker.
Computers, light bulbs, and even people generate heat—energy that ends up being wasted. Thermoelectric devices, which convert heat to electricity and vice versa, harness that energy. But they're not efficient enough for widespread commercial use or are made from expensive or environmentally harmful rare materials.
Now, Caltech researchers have developed a new type of material—a nanomesh, composed of a thin film with a grid-like arrangement of tiny holes—that could lead to efficient thermoelectric devices.
Two scientists from Caltech have been recognized by the National Institutes of Health for their innovative and high-impact biomedical research programs. Michael Roukes, professor of physics, applied physics, and bioengineering, and co-director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and Pamela Bjorkman, Caltech's Max Delbrück Professor of Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, now join the 81 Pioneers who have been selected since the program's inception in 2004.
A team of scientists from Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Michigan, and Caltech have programmed an autonomous molecular "robot" made out of DNA to start, move, turn, and stop while following a DNA track.
The development could ultimately lead to molecular systems that might one day be used for medical therapeutic devices and molecular-scale reconfigurable robots—robots made of many simple units that can reposition or even rebuild themselves to accomplish different tasks.
Producing coherent light on a microchip is old hat—LED lasers underpin our high-tech world, appearing in gadgets ranging from DVD players and supermarket checkout scanners to digital data lines. A new chip-compatible component developed at Caltech can produce coherent sound as well, and even interconvert the two. Who knows where this marriage of sound and light might lead?
A Caltech-led team of researchers and clinicians has published the first proof that a targeted nanoparticle—used as an experimental therapeutic and injected directly into a patient's bloodstream—can traffic into tumors, deliver double-stranded small interfering RNAs, and turn off an important cancer gene using a mechanism known as RNA interference. Moreover, the team demonstrated that this new type of therapy can make its way to human tumors in a dose-dependent fashion.
These boots are made for walking . . . and for powering up your cell phone? It could happen, say a team of Princeton and Caltech scientists. In a recent paper in the journal Nano Letters, they report that they have developed an innovative rubber chip that has the ability to harvest energy from motions such as walking, running, and breathing and convert it into a power source.
Caltech researchers have developed a way to make some notoriously brittle materials ductile—yet stronger than ever—simply by reducing their size. The work could eventually lead to innovative, superstrong, yet light and damage-tolerant materials. These materials could be used as components in structural applications, such as in lightweight aerospace vehicles that last longer under extreme environmental conditions and in naval vessels that are resistant to corrosion and wear.
Researchers at the Caltech have proposed a new paradigm that should allow scientists to observe quantum behavior in small mechanical systems. Their ideas, described in the early online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer a new means of addressing one of the most fascinating issues in quantum mechanics: the nature of quantum superposition and entanglement in progressively larger and more complex systems.