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Nano-motors For Microbots

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the big-things-in-micro-packages dept.

Robotics 77

Smivs writes "The BBC are reporting on the development of tiny motors the size of a grain of salt which could power surgical Microbots. Some surgical procedures are hindered by the size or inflexibility of current instruments. For example, the labyrinthine network of blood vessels in the brain prevents the use of catheters threaded through larger blood vessels. Researchers have long envisioned that trends of miniaturisation would lead to tiny robots that could get around easily in the body. The problem until now has been powering them. Conventional electric motors do not perform as well as they are scaled down in size. As they approach millimetre dimensions, they barely have the power to overcome the resistance in their bearings. Now, research reported in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering has demonstrated a motor about 1/4mm wide, about the width of two human hairs."

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Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26557095)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

INSTALLING YOUR NIGGER.
You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

CONFIGURING YOUR NIGGER
Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

HOUSING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

FEEDING YOUR NIGGER.
Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

MAKING YOUR NIGGER WORK.
Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

ENTERTAINING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD NIGGERS.
Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NIGGERS - MY NIGGER IS VERY AGGRESIVE
Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

MY NIGGER KEEPS RAPING WHITE WOMEN
They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

WILL MY NIGGER ATTACK ME?
Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

MY NIGGER BITCHES ABOUT ITS "RIGHTS" AND "RACISM".
Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

MY NIGGER'S HIDE IS A FUNNY COLOR. - WHAT IS THE CORRECT SHADE FOR A NIGGER?
A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

MY NIGGER ACTS LIKE A NIGGER, BUT IS WHITE.
What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

IS THAT LIKE AN ALBINO? ARE THEY RARE?
They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

MY NIGGER SMELLS REALLY BAD
And you were expecting what?

SHOULD I STORE MY DEAD NIGGER?
When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

Seriously. (3, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557103)

I for one, welcome our new surgical microbot wielding medical overlo--I mean "doctors".

Re:Seriously. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26557405)

So that is how the Borg will originally have developed...

Then this proves that... (3, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557469)

(bearing) resistance is futile.

Re:Then this proves that... (2, Interesting)

ya really (1257084) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557617)

I forsee it as one step closer to my nanobot army and gray goo [wikipedia.org] everywhere.

Re:Then this proves that... (1)

Manuel M (1308979) | more than 5 years ago | (#26558157)

Taking into consideration that these people are thinking about using {micro, nano}bots precisely to explore our brains, and keeping the whatcouldpossiblygowrong mindset, this article gives a whole new meaning to gray goo everywhere.

... reading TFA makes better jokes (4, Funny)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557663)

You, Sir, have obviously read TFA, and thus is far superior to the rest of Slash... I mean, Collective.

You will be assimilated to serve as a bridge between the hairless apes and the overlords.

You will be named "Rublecutus of Borg".

Re:Seriously. (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557799)

I, for one, welcome the first instance of grey goo !
Tell me, these things will run some software, right ?

Re:Seriously. (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560923)

I, for one, welcome the first instance of grey goo ! Tell me, these things will run some software, right ?

Yes. It'll run linux on a beowulf cluster of grey goo.

Re:Seriously. (2, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#26558049)

"I for one, welcome our new surgical microbot wielding medical overlo--I mean "doctors"."

Me too. Yessiree.

They will swim in my brain and they carry knives.... That negates even my nicest tinfoil hat. :(

I'm thinking compliance is in order.

Sizes (1, Flamebait)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557117)

a motor about 1/4mm wide, about the width of two human hairs."

Seriously? People are unable to visualize mm?

Who can pass basic schooling without ever using a ruler?

Maybe their's was marked in human hairs, however gross that would be. Maybe the next unit was a finger? An eye?

Re:Sizes (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557185)

In America they have the imperial system. They wouldn't know what fuck a millimeter is. They call them "Eight hairs".

Re:Sizes (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557621)

You know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in France? :)

Re:Sizes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559475)

délicieux

Re:Sizes (4, Informative)

ya really (1257084) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557637)

As an American physics student, I'm insulted :p, but this is generally correct for most Americans. Hooray, lets count in base 12 or base 16 or "base whatever feels nice." Base 10 you say? No way that could ever be easier.

Though I'd like to add at least we stick with a system, the Brits seem to have an identity crisis where they cant seem to decide if they like the Imperial System or Metric. Pint glasses, miles per hour, liters, pounds (and not the monetary kind), etc etc. Now that's pretty crazy.

Re:Sizes (1)

rdnetto (955205) | more than 5 years ago | (#26558087)

Yeah, but Britain they're *traditional*. I'm not sure about Canada, but in Australia we just use the metric system.

Re:Sizes (1)

e-Flex (1219042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26558433)

They (you over there) are apparently using the metric system more and more all the time, like in the restaurants my brother used to work and go to school in.

Re:Sizes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26558675)

Base 10 = Binary? Or were you talking in Base Ten?

All your bases... (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#26563075)

No. You could as easily say it was octal or hexadecimal.

Clearly, Base 10 obviously refers to the identity theorem. It means you use whatever base is convenient.

Just, before you do, you have to declare...

"All your bases are belong to 10...."

Re:Sizes (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559223)

I find it ironic that The US was one of the earliest innovators of simple easy to use base ten money, and we've been unable to convince anyone to use base ten for anything else since.

Re:Sizes (2, Interesting)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559285)

Metric measurements are precise, but not everything has preciseness as it's main aim. In an analogue world, things like half, quarter, eighth, 16th are more easily understood than 0.275, 1.1756 etc etc. You can't divide anything using base 10 for very long before you end up using a decimal point. Real world items don't have decimal points. Divide a loaf of bread between 8 people, do you work out what 0.125 of the loaf is then weigh each piece off or do you just split into halves repeatedly ? Fractions are still useful, take Pi for instance. 22/7 is exact - 3.142 is far from exact. Analogue watches convey the information you need, ie. how long until ... or how long past. Digital watches just give you a figure which you then have to convert into your desired answer.

In short we don't have a crisis at all. And we don't make the mistake of mixing the two together like some people ... And we can spell litres properly. But then judging by past American localisation, the liter is probably 0.827 of a real litre.

Re:Sizes (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560095)

Divide a loaf of bread between 8 people, do you work out what 0.125 of the loaf is then weigh each piece off or do you just split into halves repeatedly ?

That's really useful to know. But one of the guys isn't hungry, how do we split the loaf among seven people?

take Pi for instance. 22/7 is exact - 3.142 is far from exact

Huh? Do you live in some state that has legislated the value of pi? In my calculator, (3.142 - pi) equals 0.000407, while (22 / 7 - pi) equals 0.00126, which means the decimal approximation you gave is three times more exact than the fraction.

Analogue watches convey the information you need, ie. how long until ... or how long past. Digital watches just give you a figure which you then have to convert into your desired answer.

That's why for some applications analog instruments are better than digital ones. When you are fine tuning an electronic equipment, for instance, it's often better to use an analog multimeter because the movement of a needle gives a better visualization of a peak value than a string of changing digits. But the analog multimeter is calibrated with the exact same scale as the digital equipment.

Analog vs. digital has nothing to do with decimal vs. arbitrary multiples. A digital watch gives time in the same duodecimal units as the digital watch, which makes it so hard to perform calculations involving time.

If it takes me twenty minutes to paint a door, how long will it take me to paint twenty three doors? Answer: multiply 20 * 23 = 460 minutes, divide by 60, that's seven, 460 - 7 * 60 = 40, the remainder is minutes, so the answer is seven hours and forty minutes.

If a board is twenty centimeters wide, how wide are twenty three boards? Answer: multiply 20 * 23 = 460, move the decimal point two digits to get 4.60 meters.

Why can't you Americans face the simple truth that the arithmetic we use has ten different digits, which means it's much simpler to divide by ten than by any other number?

Re:Sizes (2)

againjj (1132651) | more than 5 years ago | (#26564193)

take Pi for instance. 22/7 is exact - 3.142 is far from exact

Huh? Do you live in some state that has legislated the value of pi?

Probably Indiana.

Re:Sizes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26560229)

your relation to half with 1/2 is in your head.

you can be programmed to relate half to .5, quarter to .25, eighth to .125, 16th to .625

don't confuse simplicity with habit and because you were programmed differently

Re:Sizes (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26562133)

precise has to do with the measurement. Not the scale. You can be as precise as you need to using imperial units (you just use bigger denominators).
Also, 22/7 is not exact. It is accurate to 3 significant digits. Since pi is an irrational number, it can't be written as a fraction.
But I do agree, for many everyday uses fractions tend to be more natural.

Re:Sizes (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 5 years ago | (#26569915)

sure divide in base 10 by 3.
go on i'll wait.
meanwhile a third of a foot is 4 inches,
a third of a circle is 120 degrees,

number systems which are easy to divide enable builders to complete building faster than non-divisible counting systems.
I suppose the base10 crowd divides circles into 1000 degrees?

Re:Sizes (1)

EdibleEchidna (468353) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557755)

"In America they have the imperial system. They wouldn't know what fuck a millimeter is. They call them "Eight hairs"."

As in "my girlfriend's Brazilian has a millimeter"?

Re:Sizes (2, Funny)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557827)

A thick human hair is about 0.18 mm, whereas a thin human hair may be as thin as 0.017 mm - , so the thickness of two human hairs may vary by more than a factor of 10 !

That's like saying, it's the size of a common green pea (about 0.5cm diameter) when in fact it's the size of a medium size citrus lime. That's like comparing Jessica Alba [wordpress.com] with This unkown person [weirdspot.com]

Re:Sizes (3, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26558023)

That's like saying, it's the size of a common green pea (about 0.5cm diameter) when in fact it's the size of a medium size citrus lime. That's like comparing Jessica Alba with This unkown person

For some reason, I'd guess one or both links are nsfw.

Re:Sizes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26558745)

Only the last one.

I checked for you.

Re:Sizes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26561673)

Depends on where you work. I just happened to be employed at Large_breast.jpg Incorporated (R).

What would be awesome (5, Funny)

Centurix (249778) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557119)

"tiny motors the size of a grain of salt which could power surgical Microbots"

Or, they could power grains of salt. Hours of fun at the dinner table.

Re:What would be awesome (4, Funny)

ByteSlicer (735276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557407)

I predict that within 100 years, these motors will be twice as powerful, ten thousand times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them.

bloodwork (4, Interesting)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557233)

Can I finally have my artery-clearing, cancer-attacking, medicine-carrying, and blood-clotting robots that will imediately improve my lifespan, quality of life, and allow me to eat all the cheese potato chips I like?

Re:bloodwork (3, Funny)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557415)

Until the robots shutdown inside your arteries and become artificial-cholesterol.

Re:bloodwork (1)

sholsinger (1131365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26562553)

Speaker: That is when we send in the nano-sized repair bots. Who repair and/or disassemble the defective units...
[Enter aide, stage left] An aide walks briskly into the room and heads for the speaker.
Aide: (whispering)
Speaker: Oh...
Aide: (whispering)
Speaker: ...Hmm...
[Exit aide, stage left] The aide leaves.
Speaker: ... nevermind.

Re:bloodwork (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566417)

My guess is they'd end up as a death machine network first, and cure for heart disease later. And it will be patented. But the bootleg version from china will be available for less and include an FM radio.

Video = Blech (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26557289)

I really wish I could un-see the video. Even the computer-generated version of the failed surgery was gross.

Gumbercules! (3, Funny)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557301)

Am I the only one who can't help but think of the parasites Fry got from the sandwich?

Re:Gumbercules! (1)

eltaco (1311561) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557723)

I'm thinking rather of the outer limits episode, where a guy who was sick had his scientist buddy inject him with nanites to heal him. in the beginning it all went well and the formerly sick guy was feeling better and better. then he started to mutate; cross-ribs, eyes in the back of his head, etc etc. apparently the nanites didn't just decide what was dead or diseased tissue, they actually decided how they could make the host "better".

it's basically a reiteration of the whole advanced / self-replicating / conscious / self aware AI thingy so popular in sci-fi, but still..

That's no nano-motor boy, no nano-motor! (4, Informative)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557497)

0.25mm is hardly nanoscale. It's not even milli-scale!

Re:That's no nano-motor boy, no nano-motor! (1)

Doctor Faustus (127273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26561539)

0.25mm is hardly nanoscale. It's not even milli-scale!
True, but it's small enough for an awful lot of surgical purposes. It could be enough to remove (in very small pieces) a lot of previously inoperable tumors, for instance.

Re:That's no nano-motor boy, no nano-motor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26561739)

The article doesn't call them nano, it's just classic Slashdot exaggeration (aka crappy editing).

I like this (-1, Offtopic)

veexp (1452505) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557543)

Wow. We have another bot- younewsbot, a website which help people distill the network to get more valuable information in less time. Plz visit www.younewsbot.com to find that.

Still gonna get stuck? (2, Insightful)

JakartaDean (834076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26557651)

Isn't that still too big to get through a capillary? Eventually they'll still get stuck somewhere, I'd imagine, and then you get a little tiny blood clot in a capillary. Maybe that's not a problem in the brain, I don't know. I still don't think you'd want millions of them blocking random capillaries and killing random nerve cells.

Re:Still gonna get stuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26557667)

Not with it's nano-progressive-knife it won't.
Then again, it may not actually cure you...

Not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26558341)

Just send a second brain robot, to clear away the first. It's like the financial crisis really, when you get into problems due to loose lending, lend more money to get out of the crisis. An absolute no brainer.

Re:Still gonna get stuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26565371)

Speak for yourself.

No change in 50 years??! (2, Informative)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 5 years ago | (#26558145)

From TFA:

Take a look however at the motors, and there are few changes from the motors available in the 1950s.

Er, maybe the basic design is similar, but motors are extraordinarily smaller (such as the 5mm wide specimens used in radio control kits nowadays) and there are new designs as well, such as stepper motors.

I think this article slightly exaggerates to make this seem more exciting...

Another random thought: this article assumes that a rotating motor is still needed, but why? If bacteria and other things move around by other means, maybe the only efficient methods of movement at small scales are NOT rotating?

RFID (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559113)

Just power them like RFID. Put some wire coils on the back and induce current in the coils with EM flux.

If my underwear has this technology, surely these medical researchers can get a hold of it.

Other uses (1)

i am calliope (1452699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26561363)

As a person in psychology, I think these advances could yield different and/or more precise diagnostic tests for people suffering from psychological illnesses. It may lead to a better understanding of how the brain works. It could lead to many exciting studies in the neuro-psychological field. Now the questions are, what will be done with them and once we are done doing whatever it is we are doing with the microbots, how do we get them out?

Do the (dismal) math (2, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#26561655)

If you do the math, the prospects for tiny motors is supremely dismal.

You see there's a basic problem-- the torque goes down as the cube of the motor's length, while the friction goes down as the square. In addition magnetics don't work well when you get down to the size of magnetic domains.

By the time you get down to the grain of salt size, motors can just barely overcome friction. Any smaller and they can't even turn over. You might notice in TFA there's no clear indication they've gotten one to rotate at all. Not surprising.

I would not bet any agricultural properties on this.

Feynman says.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26562227)

There is plenty of room at the bottom.

"Expert" speaks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26575509)

I'm one of the 'experts' from QinetiQ who was asked to comment on this.

For those who are interested in the technical detail, the motor comprises an off the shelf piece of PZT (piezoelectric), which is glued to a specially shaped (by EDM if you are interested) helical piece of metal, shaped such that when it's excited axially, it will also tend to rotate (as you would expect from a helix). The up and down, coupled with a rotating backwards and forwards makes things move if you get the relative phases right. Bit like a USM motor you might find in a camera lense.

It was tested by balancing a small ball bearing on the end, and measuring the rotation of the ball under drive. It went respectably fast (sorry, I forget exactly how quick).

What the article doesn't mention is that to run something like this you need drive electronics, and as always - power. These two are likely to increase the practical system volume by an order of magnitude.

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