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The Quiet Man
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Man of TomorrowWizard of ScienceBy night known as:Captain Future
Quote:Researchers at UCLA made headlines this month by developing a nanoscale crystal that traps roughly 80 times its volume of carbon dioxide. This particular crystal has excited proponents of carbon-capture technology for its ability to absorb CO2 and nothing else, but the process that head researcher Omar Yaghi and his lab used to develop the compound is potentially much more significant.
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The team designed and engineered a metamaterial that uses tiny geometric surface features to successfully capture the electric and magnetic properties of a
microwave to the point of total absorption. "Three things can happen to light when it hits a material," says Boston College Physicist Willie J.
Padilla. "It can be reflected, as in a mirror. It can be transmitted, as with window glass. Or it can be absorbed and turned into heat. This
metamaterial has been engineered to ensure that all light is neither reflected nor transmitted, but is turned completely into heat and absorbed. It shows we
can design a metamaterial so that at a specific frequency it can absorb all of the photons that fall onto its surface."
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Dr Eliaz is developing nano-based materials with special mechanical properties, such as high strength and wear resistance, and controllable electrical and
thermal properties. "This could lead to a superior material for the external blankets of spacecraft," says Eliaz, whose research has already been
put to use by top biomedical device companies and by aircraft industries worldwide. One candidate Eliaz and his colleagues have investigated is a hybrid
nanomaterial which incorporates small silicon-containing cages that can open and react with atomic oxygen to prevent further polymer degradation.
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Advances in nanotechnology are crucial to Europe's space programme," says Laurie Winkless, Higher Research Scientist in the nanomaterials group at
NPL, who will be the principal author of the survey. "The weight of spacecraft is a key factor in the overall cost of any space mission. If we can
identify better, lighter and more efficient materials and the best ways of using them, it may have a huge impact on the space programme," she explains.
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It took approximately 150 million carbon nanotubes, each measuring tens of thousands of times smaller than a human hair, to build John Hart's unique
homage to Barack Obama. Even then, the finished product is only half a millimetre in diameter and almost indistinguishable from any other garden variety
micro dot - unless you happen to be looking at it through a microscope.
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