MIT INVENTS NANOSCALE SHRINKING TECHNIQUE

This is certainly the week for some very high octane speculation, as this article shared by Mr. P.J. and several others demonstrates:

Team invents method to shrink objects to the nanoscale

They're calling this technique "implosion fabrication", and the idea behind it is relatively simple: first design the nano-scale object you want, then simply "shrink" or implode it to nano-fractions of its original size:

Existing techniques for creating nanostructures are limited in what they can accomplish. Etching patterns onto a surface with light can produce 2-D nanostructures but doesn’t work for 3-D structures. It is possible to make 3-D nanostructures by gradually adding layers on top of each other, but this process is slow and challenging. And, while methods exist that can directly 3-D print nanoscale objects, they are restricted to specialized materials like polymers and plastics, which lack the functional properties necessary for many applications. Furthermore, they can only generate self-supporting structures. (The technique can yield a solid pyramid, for example, but not a linked chain or a hollow sphere.)

To overcome these limitations, Boyden and his students decided to adapt a technique that his lab developed a few years ago for high-resolution imaging of brain tissue. This technique, known as expansion microscopy, involves embedding tissue into a hydrogel and then expanding it, allowing for high resolution imaging with a regular microscope. Hundreds of research groups in biology and medicine are now using expansion microscopy, since it enables 3-D visualization of cells and tissues with ordinary hardware.

By reversing this process, the researchers found that they could create large-scale objects embedded in expanded hydrogels and then shrink them to the nanoscale, an approach that they call “implosion fabrication.”

...

“It’s a bit like film photography — a latent image is formed by exposing a sensitive material in a gel to light. Then, you can develop that latent image into a real image by attaching another material, silver, afterwards. In this way implosion fabrication can create all sorts of structures, including gradients, unconnected structures, and multimaterial patterns,” Oran says.

Once the desired molecules are attached in the right locations, the researchers shrink the entire structure by adding an acid. The acid blocks the negative charges in the polyacrylate gel so that they no longer repel each other, causing the gel to contract. Using this technique, the researchers can shrink the objects 10-fold in each dimension (for an overall 1,000-fold reduction in volume). This ability to shrink not only allows for increased resolution, but also makes it possible to assemble materials in a low-density scaffold. This enables easy access for modification, and later the material becomes a dense solid when it is shrunk.

...

The MIT team is now exploring potential applications for this technology, and they anticipate that some of the earliest applications might be in optics — for example, making specialized lenses that could be used to study the fundamental properties of light. This technique might also allow for the fabrication of smaller, better lenses for applications such as cell phone cameras, microscopes, or endoscopes, the researchers say. Farther in the future, the researchers say that this approach could be used to build nanoscale electronics or robots. (Emphasis added)

As one might imagine, it's that "father in the future" aspect that has my high octane speculation motor working in overdrive. But before we get to that, it's important to note what's really being claimed here, to "boil it down" and to generalize it a bit, hopefully, without introducing inaccuracy or distortions thereby: (1) an object is embedded in a medium or matrix, (2) it is scanned and "built" at large scale, then  (3) it is actually shrunk (according to the claim, an order of magnitude in each of the three dimensions, yielding a thousandfold reduction in volume) by introducing a new material into the medium or matrix which causes the shrinkage to take place.

On the basis of these claims, the scientists themselves who accomplished this feat indulge in a bit of high octane speculation of their own: "Farther in the future, the researchers say that this approach could be used to build nanoscale electronics or robots."

Which brings me to my high octane speculation of the day: I'm old enough to remember a movie that appeared in 1966, that captured my imagination, called Fantastic Voyage, about a dying American "genius scientist" who was so valuable to whatever secret research he was involved in that he simply had to be saved, no matter what. The "no matter what" involved shrinking a human submarine (and crew) down to molecule size and injecting it (and them) into the scientist's body so that they could literally do surgery "from within". Once done, they would be extracted and returned to normal size. The movie was "updated" a bit, and made into a more humorous approach with the 1987 Dennis Quaid and well-known character actor Kevin McCarthy movie Innerspace, where the shrinking process is used to created some humorous moments in an otherwise serious plot.

So in other words, the next step in the technology tree from shrinking simple objects, then to electronics, then robots, is actual people. Think, for a moment, of the advantages such a technique would have for a variety of things, from space travel, to espionage, to infiltration, to surgery (like the original Fantastic Voyage movie). It's that chain of succession, from electronics to robots to humans which makes me wonder if, indeed, the researchers who achieved this feat were not thinking of the same thing, merely leaving it unstated. And it makes me wonder if, in fact, those 1966 and 1987 movies may have been letting a few secrets out of the bottle, so to speak, if perhaps all that money sloshing around in that "breakaway civilization" might not have already achieved some significant breakthrough in this respect, and if this latest announcement might be, not a discovery, but a disclosure masked as a discovery.

See you on the flip side...

23 thoughts on “MIT INVENTS NANOSCALE SHRINKING TECHNIQUE”

  1. ” The Incredible shrinking man” was another. I guess that’s one way to reduce the amount of plastic floating around.

  2. If you are living in a shrunk world, and are having mental problems, do you go to see a shrunk shrink?
    and would the deficit be reduced?

  3. There is a newer film called “Downsizing” that uses the shrinking of people to deal with the so called overpopulation problem .

  4. Speaking of movies about shrinking, don’t forget last year’s ” Downsizing” with Matt Damon. Whenever there’s a big star in an oddball sci-fi you know there’s a message. Good film.

  5. All I will add is the suggestion to poke around the two Marvel Ant Man movies. In which the sequel was released earlier this year.

    Why?

    http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Pym_Particles

    Dr. Henry Pym originally discovered and isolated a rare group of subatomic particles, which have become known as the “Pym Particles”, which could alter the size and mass of objects or living beings.[2] The Pym Particles allow the user to bypass the Square-cube law of physics.

    http://marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com/wiki/Pym_Particles

    Pym Particles (also known as Cross Particles) are subatomic particles of an extra dimensional nature that are capable of shunting or adding mass and reducing or increasing scale of any form of matter, compressing physical forces around such objects or organisms that they are applied to, as well as increasing density and strength of the subject. The particles were initially created in the 1960s by scientist Hank Pym, who aided the intelligence organization S.H.I.E.L.D. by harnessing the Pym Particles using a custom suit to become a field agent known as Ant-Man. His wife Janet van Dyne also aided him under the moniker of Wasp.

    Of course Ant Man also had a robotic type suit as well.

  6. Robertus_Maximus

    If you can shrink something, then the mass disappears? So if something had no mass, say a spaceship, and you turn on a flashlight, would the flashlight no power the ship? What if the point of this series of experiments is not to make things smaller but to work out a propulsion system?

  7. Are you familiar Joseph with the 1940 film Dr. Cyclops that predates Fantastic Voyage. It was based on a novel and the author pen another novel that was made into another movie Donovan’s Brain.

  8. GULLIVER’S TRAVELS 1

    When Gulliver marooned into deep,
    the giant rose out of sleep,
    and found utopian
    was Lilliputian,
    in web of melancholic weep.

  9. Robert Barricklow

    By pass the entanglement between something/nothing. Naked apes continue to engineer fires in the sandbox.
    Except this silicon box is/has more than meets the eye.

    The scopolamine drip[truth drip/up-dated lingo from CIA truth serum]. I have a friend whose said that “we’re” not inventing these “wonders”; it’s them[aliens]. I laughed.

    .Now I’m beginning to think those impossible scenarios of the laughable past are wickedly future present.

  10. The problem (or interesting part left out of) the movie “The Fantastic Voyage” is where does the mass of the ship and people in it go when they are shrunk?

    We’re told we’re made of matter/atoms, and that the only way to reduce mass is to remove matter from a system (the ship or Raquel Welsh in this case), but when the matter is removed to the represented in the movie, the physical walls of the “sub” would have very different properties. Else a ten ton submarine is inside a 200 pound person unconscious on an operating table.

    The MIT thing is vaguely interesting, but 3D printing with individual atoms for the base material has likely already been tried. (IBM effectively demonstrated it in 2D 30 years ago.) And I see MIT is not admitting that Rife and Nemes microscopes exist, though the Rife microscope has been publicly duplicated, and improved upon, for decades.

    Now if the MIT process could change the distance from the electron to the proton that would be radical, likely still wouldn’t remove much mass from the system.

      1. I think that’s what IBM uses as the signage material.

        Xenon is of course a noble gas which mostly doesn’t react with anything, so it doesn’t stick to surfaces or whatever moved the atom.

        But 30 years ago IBM acknowledged being able to move individual atoms. It’s not at all a stretch to think that IBM tried moving atoms that could react with neighbors once welded with the right electric current. CO2 is next to chemically inert as a gas, move that in electric tweezers, freeze solid, zap with the correct current and pulses, thereby by knocking the oxygen off, get sold carbon 3D objects, which have shrunk by an exactly predictable amount.

        (3D printers that drop metal dust and glue dust heating the glue to hole the metal are already on the market. One then puts the metal/glue piece in a kiln and fires it to fuse the metal and burn off the glue. The piece shrinks in predictable ways while being fired.)

        30 years ago IBM had also worked out machine (computer) translation of languages. Now no one predicted that the technology would be widely available by the year 2002 (BabbleFish’s website was the first place I saw it). Clearly that’s what became Google Translate.

  11. Alice in Wonderland. It’s a similar premise to any design project, first zoom in and make the picture bigger so you can concentrate on the finite detail and then you can zoom out, make the picture smaller with no loss of quality.

    Maybe humans were the original hydrogel homunculi – it might give special meaning to the giants of old.

  12. http://kumo.swcp.com/synth/text/buckaroo_banzai_script/

    Buckaroo Banzai: “See this rock? It’s solid matter, right? But in point of fact, the solid parts of this rock – the neutrons, quarks, protons, and electrons – comprise only about one quadrillionth of its total volume. … The rest of this rock is actually only empty space. So, back in 1937, Professor Hikita here and Dr. Emilio Lizardo figured that, if solid matter was mostly empty space, then a person should be able to discover a way to travel ‘inside things’.”

    Professor Hikita: “We at the Banzai Institute have at last found that way. We have created a device called an ‘Oscillation Overthruster’.”

    And just because…

    Buckaroo Banzai [handing over the thermopod’s controls]: “It flies like a truck.”
    John Parker [alien]: “Good. What is a truck?”

    1. In Michael Chrichton’s book “Micro”, he wrote about a biotech company, Nanigen Micro-Technologies, that had developed a tensor generator; a machine that used extreme magnetic fields to shrink anything, even living organisms.

Comments are closed.