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article imageWorld's smallest house made using nanotechnology

By Tim Sandle     May 19, 2018 in Science
Bescat - Scientists have assembled the world’s smallest house by using a combination of robotics and nanotechnology. The micro-house even has a door that a house mite can fit through.
The house has been devised, according to Engadget, as a proof-of-concept study from a nanorobotics team based at the Femto-ST Institute in Besancon, France. The researchers successfully assembled a new microbotics system termed the μRobotex nanofactory. By deploying tiny robots the researchers can construct microstructures within a large vacuum chamber. Within this they can fix components onto optical fiber tips at a level of nanometer accuracy.
The idea behind the microhouse construction was in order to demonstrate that the latest advances in optical sensing technologies can be used to manipulate ion guns (via gas injection), electron beams and finely controlled robotic piloting, so that a variety of different constructs can be rendered. As an example of the complexity and tiny scale of operations, the ion gun focuses on an area only 300 micrometers by 300 micrometers so that it can to fire ions onto the fiber tip and silica membrane.
This forms part of the area of lab-on-fiber technologies. In the early stages of this technology there were no robotic actuators available for for nanoassembly, which limited what engineers could achieve in terms of creating microstructures at the nano-scale. A recent advance in miniaturtized-sensing elements has addressed this. These sensing elements can be fitted onto fiber tips, allowing scientists to manipulate different components.
The technology allows enables scientists to insert optical fibers as thin as a strand of human hair into previously inaccessible locations such as jet engines, to detect radiation levels, or into human blood vessels to detect viral particles. According to lead researcher Jean-Yves Rauch, speaking with Research and Development magazine: “For the first time we were able to realize patterning and assembly with less than two nanometers of accuracy, which is a very important result for the robotics and optical community."
For the next research stage gate, the scientists aim to use the μRobotex system to develop even smaller structures and to fix these onto carbon nanotubes, which would only be 20 nanometers to 100 nanometers in diameter. For the different applications of carbon nanotubes, see the Digital Journal science article "Creating carbon nanotubes with everyday solvent."
The research has been published in the journal Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology A, and the research paper is called "Smallest microhouse in the world, assembled on the facet of an optical fiber by origami and welded in the μRobotex nanofactory."
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