The American Association for the Advancement of Science: Tiniest drop of water created

(First Edition)

SCIENTISTS have created the tiniest drop of water and the smallest object ever made in their quest to build a new generation of miniature machines. The discipline, called nano-engineering, involves objects a few tens of nanometres across - a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair.

'This is engineering at its limit, where we are fabricating and measuring individual atoms and groups of atoms,' George Whitesides, from the chemistry department of Harvard University, told the meeting.

His group had made droplets each holding just 10 trillionths of a litre of water - roughly equal to the fluid content of a biological cell. 'No one has ever seen these before . . . they could become the basis of tiny reactors.'

Raymond Ashoori, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he had made 'an atom in a box', to which he could add electrons one at a time. The beauty of these 'artificial atoms' over real ones was that they could be made any size, and could be squashed more easily to see how they behaved.

Professor Whitesides told the meeting that the work should lead to a new class of electronic devices, or at least make it easier to build smaller versions of today's electronic components, such as microprocessors for ultra-dense, ultra-fast computation.

The dimensions of the objects in nano-engineering are roughly the same as those of the internal machinery of biological cells.

Optimists have talked about the prospect of building minute machines that doctors could inject into people's arteries to spot and scrape away plaques built up on their surfaces. But Professor Whitesides was sceptical. 'That's what we have enzymes inside us for,' he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager

£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor - Automotive

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary - Family Law

£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing professional legal pr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Java

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting and disruptive co...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935