Nanosponge

Researchers at Rice University have come up with a new technology for oil-absorbing sponges. The sponges are made of carbon nanotubes with a splash of boron . They are elastic, compressible, flexible, lightweight, and they hate water and love oil. When a sponge is placed on the surface of water, it floats across the surface until coming across oil, which it then readily absorbs.

After being absorbed, the oil can either be stored in the sponge for later retrieval or burned off, allowing the sponge to be reused.

One of the most amazing parts of this technology is that the sponges can be directed by magnets, providing an easy way to collect the sponges after they’ve absorbed oil. Here is a great short video explaining how they work:

Source (Mike Williams, “Nanosponges soak up oil again and again”, Rice University, 13.04.2012)

Nanoelectronics

Today I want to talk about nanoelectronics. My presentation will contain 3 main points: the first one is definition and short history of nanotechnology, the second one is about nanoelectronics and the third one is about applications in real life. There is a saying that if you can name it, nanotech might be able to do it. Let’s find out why.

First of all, the word nano comes from the Greek word dwarf and one nanometer is about 10-9 meters. Therefore, nanotechnology is science and engineering at the scale of atoms and molecules. To put things into perspective, atoms are about 0.2 nm wide, strands of DNA are about 2 nm wide, red blood cells are about 7 000 nm in diameter and human hair is about 80 000 nm across. The first concept of nanotechnology was presented in 1959 by Dr. Richard Feynman. He imagined the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica written on the head of a pin.

The second point and the most important one of my presentation is related to nanoelectronics and how it can improve the capabilities of electronic components. This science enables us to increase the density of memory chips,  hence being able to store even more than 1 terabyte of information per square inch. It also reduces the size of transistors, so we could put the power of all today’s present in the palm of our hands, as Stanley Williams says. Another important progress is the improvement of display screens, while reducing power consumption and the size of the screens. In computing, nanotech leads to smaller and more powerful microchips. To give you an example, in the picture you can see 3 types of information storage across time, and the evolution of size, capacity and price. There is a dramatic decrease in both size and price and an increase in the quantity of information stored. Another important example is related to nano carbon transistors. While in 2003 researchers created one that had the same size and functions as a silicon one, in 2013 IBM created the smallest nanotransistor which has 9 nm.

In the last part of my presentation, I will briefly give you examples of devices and other things around us that use nanotechnology. There are hard drives, cars and scratch-and-wear-resistant paints and coatings. Also sunscreens, tennis balls and racquets, and metal cutting tools. And also bandages, packaging and the one that I like the most, stain-resistant fabrics.

There is a question we have to ask ourselves: what are the risks of using nanotechnology? It could lead to job losses, economic disruption of labour markets, we could prolong our lives, improve endurance or even make us a little bit smarter. These issues are developed in the movie Transcendence.