Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Watching Fluid Flow at Nanometer Scales

Published: Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Researchers find that tiny nanowires can lift liquids as effectively as tubes.

Imagine if you could drink a glass of water just by inserting a solid wire into it and sucking on it as though it were a soda straw. It turns out that if you were tiny enough, that method would work just fine — and wouldn’t even require the suction to start.

New research carried out at MIT and elsewhere has demonstrated for the first time that when inserted into a pool of liquid, nanowires — wires that are only hundreds of nanometers (billionths of a meter) across — naturally draw the liquid upward in a thin film that coats the surface of the wire. The finding could have applications in microfluidic devices, biomedical research and inkjet printers.

The phenomenon had been predicted by theorists, but never observed because the process is too small to be seen by optical microscopes; electron microscopes need to operate in a vacuum, which would cause most liquids to evaporate almost instantly. To overcome this, the MIT team used an ionic liquid called DMPI-TFSI, which remains stable even in a powerful vacuum. Though the observations used this specific liquid, the results are believed to apply to most liquids, including water.

The results are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology by a team of researchers led by Ju Li, an MIT professor of nuclear science and engineering and materials science and engineering, along with researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, and Zhejiang University in China.

While Li says this research intended to explore the basic science of liquid-solid interactions, it could lead to applications in inkjet printing, or for making a lab on a chip. “We’re really looking at fluid flow at an unprecedented small length scale,” Li says — so unexpected new phenomena could emerge as the research continues.

At molecular scale, Li says, “the liquid tries to cover the solid surface, and it gets sucked up by capillary action.” At the smallest scales, when the liquid forms a film less than 10 nanometers thick, it moves as a smooth layer (called a “precursor film”); as the film gets thicker, an instability (called a Rayleigh instability) sets in, causing droplets to form, but the droplets remain connected via the precursor film. In some cases, these droplets continue to move up the nanowire, while in other cases the droplets appear stationary even as the liquid within them flows upward.

The difference between the smooth precursor film and the beads, Li says, is that in the thinner film, each molecule of liquid is close enough to directly interact, through quantum-mechanical effects, with the molecules of the solid buried beneath it; this force suppresses the Rayleigh instability that would otherwise cause beading. But with or without beading, the upward flow of the liquid, defying the pull of gravity, is a continuous process that could be harnessed for small-scale liquid transport.

Although this upward pull is always present with wires at this tiny scale, the effect can be further enhanced in various ways: Adding an electric voltage on the wire increases the force, as does a slight change in the profile of the wire so that it tapers toward one end. The researchers used nanowires made of different materials — silicon, zinc oxide and tin oxide, as well as two-dimensional graphene — to demonstrate that this process applies to many different materials.

Nanowires are less than one-tenth the diameter of fluidic devices now used in biological and medical research, such as micropipettes, and one-thousandth the diameter of hypodermic needles. At these small scales, the researchers found, a solid nanowire is just as effective at holding and transferring liquids as a hollow tube. This smaller scale might pave the way for new kinds of microelectromechanical systems to carry out research on materials at a molecular level.

The methodology the researchers developed allows them to study the interactions between solids and liquid flow “at almost the smallest scale you could define a fluid volume, which is 5 to 10 nanometers across,” Li says. The team now plans to examine the behavior of different liquids, using a “sandwich” of transparent solid membranes to enclose a liquid, such as water, for examination in a transmission electron microscope. This will allow “more systematic studies of solid-liquid interactions,” Li says — interactions that are relevant to corrosion, electrodeposition and the operation of batteries.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 4,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 5,300+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Radiation-Free Imaging in the Brain
Scientists create sensors that use proteins to detect particular targets through induced blood flow changes.
Monday, December 05, 2016
New Method for Analyzing Crystal Structure
Exotic materials called photonic crystals reveal their internal characteristics with new method.
Monday, November 28, 2016
Biomarker Guiding Cancer Therapy
Biologists link levels of Mena protein to breast cancer cells’ sensitivity to chemotherapy.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Capsule Achieves Long-Term Drug Delivery
Novel drug delivery method could aid in elimination of malaria and treatment of many other diseases.
Monday, November 21, 2016
Synthetic Cells Isolate Genetic Circuits
Encapsulating molecular components in artificial membranes offers more flexibility in designing circuits.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Turning Greenhouse Gas into Gasoline
New catalyst provides design principles for producing fuels from carbon dioxide emissions.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
New Approach Against Salmonella
Researchers have developed a strategy to immunize against microbes that invade the gastrointestinal tract, including Salmonella.
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Laser Particles Could Provide Sharper Tissue Images
New imaging technique stimulates particles to emit laser light, could create higher-resolution images.
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Engineers Design New Weapon Against Bacteria
Researchers have successfully engineered antimicrobial peptides that can kill bacterial strains resistant to existing antibiotics.
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Predicting Cancer Cells’ Response to Chemotherapy
Researcher develop method for testing cell ability to perform different types of DNA repair, which can reveal tumors’ sensitivity to drugs.
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Nanobionic Spinach Detects Dangerous Chemicals
Scientists have changed spinach plants into biosensors that can detect harful chemicals and wirelessly relay the information.
Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Fighting Cancer with the Power of Immunity
Researchers at MIT have used a combination of four different therapies to activate both of the immune system’s two branches, producing a coordinated attack that led to the complete disappearance of large, aggressive tumors in mice.
Friday, October 28, 2016
Fighting Cancer with Immune Response
New treatment elicits two-pronged immune response that destroys tumors in mice.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
MRIs for Fetal Health
Algorithm could help analyze fetal scans to determine whether interventions are warranted.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Mapping Serotonin in the Living Brain
Imaging technique that creates a 3D video of serotonin transport could aid antidepressant development.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Scientific News
Big Genetics in BC: The American Society for Human Genetics 2016 Meeting
Themes at this year's meeting ranged from the verification, validation, and sharing of data, to the translation of laboratory findings into actionable clinical results.
Stem Cells in Drug Discovery
Potential Source of Unlimited Human Test Cells, but Roadblocks Remain.
Cancer Genetics: Key to Diagnosis, Therapy
When applied judiciously, cancer genetics directs caregivers to the right drug at the right time, while sparing patients of unnecessary or harmful treatments.
Transporting Microscopic Cargo Between Human Cells
Scientists have developed a virus-inspired delivery system for material transport between cells.
Tissue Damage Is Key for Cell Reprogramming
Researchers have shown tissue damage is important for cells to return to an embryonic state for cell reprogramming.
Metabolite Promotes Cancer Cell Transformation
Researchers have identified a metabolite that promotes cancer cell transformation and colorectal cancer spread.
Improving Drug Production with Computer Model
A model has been developed that can be used to improve and accelerate the production of biotherapeutics, cancer drugs, and vaccines.
Bird Flu Confirmed in the Netherlands
An outbreak of H5 avian influenza was confirmed in the Flevoland province of the Netherlands.
Pasteurised Bacterium Reduces Obesity and Diabetes
Researchers have discovered that an intestinal bacterium provides a lasting effect on the intestinal barrier.
Turning Off Asthma Attacks
Researchers discover a critical cellular “off” switch for the inflammatory immune response that causes asthma attacks.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
4,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,300+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!