Smallest Motor in the World

Rearchers at EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science) and EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) have created what appears to be the smallest motor in the world, consisting of a mere 16 atoms. A “rotor” consisting of a 4 atom acetylene molecule (gray in the image above) on a PdGa surface (Pd-Palladium, blue in the image above, and Ga-Gallium, red).

Researchers used scanning tunneling microscopy to observe the rotation of the acetylene molecule on the PdGa substrate.

The special feature of this “motor” is that it moves at the boundary between classical motion and quantum tunneling. The “rotation” isn’t rotation as we think of it in the conventional sense. That is, the acetylene molecule doesn’t smoothly turn form one position to the next. Instead it “quantum tunnels” from one position to the next without passing through the intermediate positions.

With quantum tunneling, which involves no energy loss, we would expect the motion to be random, that is movement “steps” would be clockwise as often as counter-clockwise. However, this one has 99% directional stability. Small amounts of energy (as little as from a single electron of current flowing into the motor) can cause the motor to rotate. Larger amounts of energy cause it to rotate faster (individual “steps” taking place more frequently) but increase the chance of the motor moving in a random direciton.

Thermal energy can also cause the motor to rotate but leads to random rotations. At room temperature the motor rotates randomly at several million revolutions per second.

The directionality brings up an interesting theoretical problem. Quantum tunneling is usually considered as being a lossless process. That is, no energy is expended in tunneling between two states. However, from thermodynamics, lossless processes are reversible. If is equally likely to go one way as it is to go the other. The directionality of the rotation of the acetylene molecule in this setup therefore indicates that there is some small loss in the tunneling process. Thus one application of this motor would be to help study energy loss in quantum tunneling.

Nano-gold Antibody Test for CoronaVirus

Nano magazine just reported the following:

As many nations across the world are dealing with increasing numbers of coronavirus cases, the testing of suspected carriers is being intensified also. The mass expansion of testing means that nations are currently relying heavily on traditional technology, based on the tried-and-true polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

This increased pressure on current testing methods that require laboratory machines, means that it is vital alternative approaches can be found to make it easier and quicker for potential carriers to be tested and screened. Some methods modify the standard PCR test, to amplify small bits of genetic material to enable detection, whereas others sequence the virus directly or use the genome editor CRISPR.

Meanwhile, another form of test, widely used in China’s efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus, offers a quick point-of-care solution by detecting the IgM and IgG antibodies your body creates to naturally fight off the virus.

More at source.

While antibody testing does not tell whether the person is currently infected, it does report whether they have recently been exposed to the virus. This can be particularly useful as it provides information on people who have previously been exposed and have recovered, something virus detecting tests do not. It provides rapid results with positive results in as little as 3 minutes and 15 minutes for a confirmed negative result.

The tests in question use nanometer scale gold particles that have been used in a number of tests over the years for parasitic, virus, and fungus diseases; tuberculosis, melioidosis, syphilis, brucellosis, shigellosis, and coli-infections; to determine blood groups and pregnancy at an early stage, for dot blot hybridization, and for revealing the diphtheritic toxin, diagnostics of myocardial infarction, and hepatitis B. It has also been used for screening of early stage cancer and even to treat things like prostate cancer.

Advanced Surface Microscopy is Still Open, Serving our Customers Worldwide

Our president, Donald A. Chernoff, has reviewed “Indiana Executive Order 20-08 Stay at Home” dated 3/23/2020 .

He concluded that Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc. is an Essential Business. Its activities are included in the “essential” list in Section 14, in three paragraphs:

(p) Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations;
(t) Professional services; and
(u) Manufacture, Distribution, and Supply Chain for Critical Products and Industries.

As a result, Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc, is remaining open during this crisis. We continue to serve our customers worldwide with the help of couriers like Fedex and UPS.  Samples for analysis and equipment for repair continue to arrive.  Analytical results, repaired equipment, refurbished equipment, calibration standards and software continue to ship out.  Remote technical support and consultation continue.  As we do all this, we are taking due care to protect the health of both our employees and our customers.

Nanotechnology for building airplane wings.

From Nano-Magazine.

Carbon nanotubes have been used to simply and inexpensively join together aerospace-grade composites used to manufacture aircraft. The technique, developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), bypasses the need for costly and energy intensive pressure vessels and could speed up the production of aircraft and high-performance composite structures like wind turbine blades.

Modern aircraft are constructed from sheet-like composites, which are fused together at high temperatures within giant pressurised vessels called autoclaves. These are required to force out tiny pockets of air that form between the sheets thanks to their microscopic surface roughness – much like squeezing out air bubbles that form under a plastic film.

More at the source.

Atomic Force Microscopy, along with other techniques like electron microscopy, can be a useful tool in characterizing the carbon nanotube structures used for this kind of purpose. The alignment and consistency of such nanostructures can drastically affect material performance. The ability of AFM to produce nanometer scale images of surfaces in ambient air conditions is an important complement to techniques like Scanning Electron Microscopy which is performed in vacuum.

Is Your Computer Wormable?

In May of 2019, an exploit, “Wormable Bluekeep”, was discovered in Windows XP and later operating systems. For Windows 10, the fix was included in the security update so anyone who allowed their computers to update automatically got it.

The update was important enough that like with the previous “Wannacry” exploit, Microsoft created a fix for the out-of-support Windows XP. Microsoft is strongly encouraging everyone who still uses Windows XP to get this fixed.

Details can be found at from the Microsoft Support site.

ASM has, for years, provided new Windows XP computers for operating NanoScope brand Atomic Force Microscopes. We recommend that our customers ensure that the fix for this exploit be installed on your computers.

You can find the fixes at the following locations:

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (x86)
Windows XP Embedded Edition SP3
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition SP3

You might also want to make sure that your computer has all the updates between Service Pack 3 and the official end of life on April 8, 2014. Softpedia has created an unofficial “Service Pack 4” which includes all these updates

Watch out for WannaCry

Recently, the world’s largest manufacturer of semiconductor chips, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC), was hit with the WannaCry worm. A supplier installed software containing the infection to a tool and connected it to the network. More than 10,000 unpatched Windows 7 machines became infected, leading to substantial losses in production while machines were down as a result of the worm and the subsequent efforts to repair the damage.

Installing the patches themselves requires taking the machines down and coordinating tool recovery with equipment suppliers.
You can read more about the event here.

As more and more systems in manufacturing facilities are networked together, the threat of worms like WannaCry increases. Managers need to trade off the improved productivity of networked systems against the downtime needed to properly secure those systems against viruses and worms, also considering the threat of greater downtimes from an infection.

Most of the NanoScope® brand AFM’s are controlled by Windows XP computers. Accordingly, the computers supplied by Advanced Surface Microscopy for refurbished systems run Windows XP to retain compatibility with older hardware. Systems installed after May 2017 have the XP WannaCry patch that was provided by Microsoft.


If you have an XP system, here’s how to confirm the patch is installed:

  • Open Windows Explorer and browse to the indicated folder and file.
  • Highlight the file srv.sys and read the file version in the status line.

  • Srv.sys version 5.1.2600.7208 is good. If you have this version, the patch is installed.
  • Then close the Window.

If the patch has not yet been installed, then:

Download and install the patch Security Update for Windows XP SP3 (KB4012598).
You can find this at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=55245
The file to download is
WindowsXP-KB4012598-x86-Custom-ENU.exe
Date Published: 5/15/2017
File Size: 666 KB

For all other operating systems, go to the authoritative Microsoft page.