One of the roadblocks in building nanobots is the higher rate of wear and tear miniature motors encounter versus their large size counterparts. Physicists at MIT have reportedly developed a technique which allows them to tune the friction between two surfaces, to the point where it disappears.
The group continued to stretch and squeeze the ion crystal to manipulate the arrangement of atoms, and discovered that if the atom spacing is mismatched from that of the optical lattice, friction between the two surfaces vanishes. In this case, the crystal tends not to stick then suddenly slip, but to move fluidly across the optical lattice, much like a caterpillar inching across the ground.
For instance, in arrangements where some atoms are in troughs while others are at peaks, and still others are somewhere in between, as the ion crystal is pulled across the optical lattice, one atom may slide down a peak a bit, releasing a bit of stress, and making it easier for a second atom to climb out of a trough — which in turn pulls a third atom along, and so on.
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