Friday, February 2, 2007

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's nano demon came down upon his head

We live in an age of wonders. Retro-themed wonders to be sure, but wonders nonetheless. First, it was an anchient Greek difference engine, and now it's Victorian nanotech. It seems that way back in 1867, a physicist by the name of James Clerk Maxwell postulated a molecular "demon" that could circumvent the second law of thermodynamics. Today we can look back and see he was effectively proposing nano machines, but not only that, we (specifically, David Leigh) can build them, too.
His mechanism traps molecular-sized particles as they move. As Maxwell had predicted long ago, it does not need energy because it is powered by light.

"While light has previously been used to energize tiny particles directly, this is the first time that a system has been devised to trap molecules as they move in a certain direction under their natural motion," said Leigh who reported the findings in the journal Nature.

"Once the molecules are trapped, they cannot escape."

Leigh credits Maxwell for establishing the fundamentals for understanding how light, heat and molecules behave.

My next question is obvious, but it must be asked: How long before the first NanoSteam story hits the newsstands?

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