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August 1st, 2006

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has won some awards. 

ORNL scientists noted for nanotech

The method (NanoFermentation) works at or near room temperature and uses conventional equipment, a straightforward fermentation process and natural rather than genetically engineered bacterial strains. It promises to allow production of tailored nanomaterials in economic quantities, potentially stimulating interest in the development of new and expanded applications.

They won awards to for two inventions in separate contest. Their high-temperature superconducting wire technology won the other award. 

Stephen Kevan and his team are using a very familiar technique: taking an atom’s wave nature to create smooth wave fronts, such as those found in laser light. They accomplished this using helium. Details:

The nozzle used in the experiments is similar to one on a garden hose. However, it utilizes a micron-sized glass capillary, borrowed from patch-clamp technology used in neuroscience. The capillary, smaller than a human hair, provides very small but bright-source atoms that can then be scattered from a surface. This distribution of scattered atoms is measured with high resolution using a field ionization detector.

The helium atoms advance with de Broglie wavelengths similar to X-rays, but are neutral and non-damaging to the surface involved. Kevan’s team was able to measure single-slit diffraction patterns as well as speckle patterns made on an irregularly shaped object.  

Of course, now they’re working on developing an ‘atom camera’. Getting the speckle diffraction patterns back in days rather than seconds seems to be a bit sub-optimal. Check out the article here.


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