For the first time, carbon nanotubes have been picked up and moved with a laser beam. The trick may finally offer engineers who want to build microchips based on nanotube components a way to move the diminutive devices into place.
The semiconducting properties of nanotubes – which are just a few nanometres wide and around 100 nanometres long – mean they might one day be used as the basis for low-power, ultra-fast chips. But until now, the only way to position the carbon tubes has been laborious: nudging them around with an expensive instrument called an atomic force microscope.
So David Grier of New York University and Joseph Plewa and colleagues from the optics company Arryx in Chicago, Illinois, wondered if a technique called optical trapping could do the job more conveniently.