Rice has been among leaders in developing nanocars, which are even smaller than Cooper Minis, although they probably have more leg room and are less annoying to look at.
Now they've made another breakthrough -- they've gotten the things to move at room temperature. Previously the nanocars only rolled at temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius (if we were Jay Leno, we'd insert some remark here about how that meant they could only wok on a Houston freeway in August, am I right?)
Rice's Stephan Link says it's all to do with using flourescent dye trailers, which sounds kinda low-rider to us.
From the university's release:
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"We thought, 'We're just going to take an image, and nothing's going to happen,'" said Link of the team's initial success in attaching fluorescent dye trailers to the nanocars. "We were worrying about how to build a temperature stage around it and how to heat it and how to make it move.
"To my surprise, my students came back and said, 'They moved!'"
The cars are as small as a single molecule. They used to have buckyball wheels, which is very Rice of them, but now have something else. Rice has gone on to make nanotrucks and nanobackhoes (No job too small!!), but until now none have worked at room temps.
Practical use of the things may be years away, but nano experts say the room-temperature breakthrough makes it likely a far wider range of eventual uses will be found.
-- Richard Connelly