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Vanadium oxide microactuators:
These are the nanobots you’re looking for


By John Hewitt on December 20, 2012 at 9:51 am

Nanotechnology has promised us a fantastic world where miniature factories could build devices atom by atom. While semiconductor technology continues to deliver chips with features of ever greater precision, building nano devices that might fertilize his nanoworld — devices that move — have been a little tougher to come by. A recent report in Nano Letters describes a new kind of microactuator made from vanadium oxide. This material has some pretty incredible properties, and it might be able to fill in some of the gaps left by other microactuator technologies — such as piezoelectrics — that come up short.

There was a period before the millennium when collecting beer cans was a legitimate hobby. Many an enterprising youth’s first experiment in chemical physics was freezing a dented can filled with water in an attempt to restore the original shape. Phase changes which significantly alter volume can also occur in some materials without a change in physical state, like going from water to ice. When vanadium dioxide is heated beyond 67 degrees Celsius, it remains in the solid state but undergoes a structural phase transition that expands it in two dimensions while shrinking the third (pictured above). This transition is also accompanied by transformation from an insulator into a metal conductor.

Read more: Vanadium oxide microactuators: These are the nanobots you’re looking for | ExtremeTech.

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