The Creepy Crawling Nano-Fiber Vacuum

Tired of mopping and sweeping your floors? Now cleaning has become so much easier!

Let this new crawling vacuum introduced by Panasonic do all the dirty work! It's called Fukitorimushi, which means "Wipe-up Bug" in japanese. Working with textile maker Teijin, they have developed an autonomous floor-cleaning robot that crawls around like an inchworm. The robot is covered in a super-absorbent polyester nanofiber cloth that picks up microscopic dust and residue that ordinary vacuums leave behind.

The specially designed nanofibers significantly increase the fabric's surface area and porosity, giving it super wiping characteristics and the ability to absorb oil and ultra-fine dust particles less than one micrometer in diameter. How small is a micrometer? Well, to give you an idea, a single human hair is approximately 100 micrometers in diameter. So it's really small! The large surface contact area also increases the fabric's friction with the floor, allowing it to use this friction to push itself forward while wiping the floor. Check out the cool video!

Playing Pinball with Atoms

Many of you may have played pinball in an arcade before. How small is that pinball be? The size of a marble? The size of an ant? What if you could play pinball with something much much smaller? What's the smallest thing you can think of?

Researchers in the Netherlands have developed an atomic scale mechanical device by using electrical current to make two atom pairs behave like the flippers on a atomic-sized pinball machine.

On a piece of germanium, platinum atoms heated under a very high vacuum, which causes them to form dimer chains. Platinum dimers are structures that consist of two platinum atoms linked together. When electrons are injected into the platinum dimers using a scanning tunneling microscope tip, the atom pairs can switch to as many as six different configurations!

Source: ACS Publications

Nano Tattoo for Diabetics

For many, tattoos allow people to express their style. But did you know that in the near future, tattoos may become a means of treating disease? Diabetics who monitor their blood sugar levels often have endure many needle pricks every day. However, Heather Clark of Draper Laboratory in Massachusetts is developing a new tattoo ink that changes color based on glucose levels inside the skin.

So how does it work? The dye is made up of tiny plastic nanoparticles. When the glucose is low, the particle is yellow and fluorescent, but when glucose levels increase, the fluorescence goes away and the particles turn purple. Though this tattoo would have to be periodically re-injected because it would shed along with the skin, it's a major step up from the daily needle pricks!

Scientists hope that this technology will be up and running in the next five to ten years.

Source: Earth and Sky

My head is in the clouds...

... and what do I see? Bacteria! Pollen! Fungi! What's going on? A team of atmospheric chemists at University of California at San Diego have performed the first-ever direct detections of biological particles inside ice clouds. Taking samples of water droplets and ice crystal residues using a mass spectrometer while flying at high speeds through clouds in the skies of Wyoming, these researchers have revealed that the growth ice crystals were initiated almost entirely of dust or biological material, such as bacteria, fungal spores, and plant material.

Though it has long been known that microorganisms become airborne and travel great distances, this is the first study that analyzes their influence on cloud formation. Researchers have found that the ice crystal residues were half made up of mineral dust and a third were made up of inorganic ions mixed with nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon - the signature elements of biological matter.

If we can understand how these particles cause cloud formation, we can then determine the impact they have on the climate. For example, some scientists believe that the dust transported from Asia could be impacting the rainfall in North America!

Source: NSF Press Release 09-100