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HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2014 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Engines Powered by the Forces Between Atoms

By manipulating van der Waals forces, it may be possible to create novel types of friction-free nanomachines, propulsive systems, and energy storage devices.

Fabrizio Pinto

Pinto discusses cutting-edge research in the use of van der Waals forces (and other such dispersion forces) in nano- and micro-technology. Typically van der Waals forces are assumed to be "constant" but by modulating dispersion forces (of which van der Waals forces are one example), they can actuate nanodevices and store energy. These forces make it possible to "touch" and "move" objects (in some cases even relatively macroscopic ones) without actually touching them, and without the need for electrostatic charges or currents.


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