Researchers are continually looking for ways to pack more into less, especially in the manufacture of computer chips and mechanical devices. One answer so far has been nanotechnology, although that practice is expensive and produces devices that don’t last too long.
Now comes word that a team of physicists out of Switzerland has developed a method of reducing friction on nano-size objects. This is key because lubrication has not been found to work at this tiny level of operation; without lubrication, devices wear out much more quickly.
The kind of lubrication that works on larger chips is a liquid one, keeping the tiny parts of microprocessors from drying out, rubbing against one another, and wearing down. But because nano devices are so small, liquid lubrication has so far proved impossible. The team of researchers, working at the University of Basel, has invented a “dry” lubrication method consisting of tiny vibrations that substitute for the liquid needs of the nano-processor parts; as a result, the friction normally found on contact between surfaces is dramatically reduced, as much as 100 times.
The result is a nano device that doesn’t suffer an incredible rate of breakdown. That could mean good news for proponents of nano-sized storage devices, which up until now have only been on an experimental basis due to their short shelf life.