Sunday, June 16, 2013

Graphene and Nanotubes Will Replace Silicon in Tomorrow's Nano-Machines

Physicist and novelist Paul McEuen says one day nanobots will carry medicine through your bloodstream and rebuild your brain's circuitry.

In the 2011 thriller novel Spiral, a scientist is forced to swallow a swarm of razor-clawed, fungus-tending micro-robots, a scene that hardly presents small machines in a positive light. So it may seem odd that the book’s first-time author, 49-year-old physicist Paul McEuen, is a leader in the field of nanoscience, the study of structures smaller than a micron, or a millionth of a meter.
 
One might think his fellow scientists would be disturbed that he mined his field for gory ways to kill people. “Actually,” McEuen says, “they were very supportive. I even got a good review in the Journal of Mycology.” Relaxed, thoughtful and highly literate — in a recent academic article he cited Hume, Joyce and Beckett along with Nobel Prize-winning physicists Richard Feynman and Niels Bohr — McEuen is a man of wide-ranging interests who has narrowed his scientific focus to the very, very small.
 
McEuen was already a leading authority on carbon nanotubes, naturally occurring cylindrical structures smaller than a billionth of a meter in diameter, when he was lured to Ithaca, N.Y., in 2001 to direct Cornell University’s Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics. In 2010, he also took over as director of the prestigious Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science.
 
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