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Science Technology

Fiber Optic Spanner (Wrench) Developed 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the nanites-need-tools-too dept.
xclr8r writes "A technique to use fiber optics to adjust microscopic particles has been developed. 'Rather than an actual physical device that wraps around a cell or other microscopic particle to apply rotational force, the spanner (the British term for a wrench) is created when two laser beams — emitted by a pair of optical fibers — strike opposite sides of the microscopic object, trapping and holding it in place. By slightly offsetting the fibers, the beams can impart a small twisting force, causing the object to rotate in place. It is possible to create rotation along any axis and in any direction, depending on the positioning of the fibers.' Applications of this technology can be used in a number of ways, including cancer research. This technology could be used to actually manipulate DNA. Associate Professor of Physics Samarendra Mohanty states that macroscale applications are a possibility, including 'direct conversion of solar energy to mechanical energy,' or possibly using it to 'simulate an environment in which photons radiated from the sun could propel the reflective motors in solar sails, a promising future technology for deep-space travel.'"
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Fiber Optic Spanner (Wrench) Developed

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  • Still (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jimbob The Mighty (1282418) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @10:24PM (#42187629)
    Still waiting on the sonic screwdriver...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I already have one. It makes noise, lights up, and it's, well, a screw driver. I can even change the bit.

    • Re:Still (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wierd_w (1375923) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @10:32PM (#42187679)

      You could probably make one if you really wanted.

      I mean, a simple tone generator, and some variable impedence circuits attached to some high power tansducers with a waveguide cup, and you are there.

      All you have to do, is ensure that the tones emitted by the transducers are offset a small fraction of a wavelength of the tone frequency, such that a reinforcement peak forms and "rolls" around the inside of the cavity. Basically an ultrasonic motor, but with just the stators.

      Would also work wonders for busting up rust on a rusty bolt.

      • With regards to rusty bolts. Use Liquid Wrench. It's messy (especially if you're crawling under a car to work), but that stuff works miracles. The last thing you want to do is break off the stud with the bolt still attached. That will ruin your day!

        • by wierd_w (1375923)

          The "sonic screwdriver" would work best with a penetrating oil like liquid wrench anyway. The oil would improve phonon conduction in the bolt.

          It would basically be the same as gently tapping the head of the rusted bolt with a hammer after being sprayed, only more controlled, and with additional resonant effects in play.

          Too strong of a transducer might fatigue the metal of the bolt though. Try to avoid the ones that can "homogenize" tissue samples, and you should be fine. :D

        • by EETech1 (1179269)

          PB B'laster kicks liquid wrenches butt...

          If you've never tried it, you have to!

          Cheers!

      • by cyn1c77 (928549)

        You could probably make one if you really wanted.

        I mean, a simple tone generator, and some variable impedence circuits attached to some high power tansducers with a waveguide cup, and you are there.

        All you have to do, is ensure that the tones emitted by the transducers are offset a small fraction of a wavelength of the tone frequency, such that a reinforcement peak forms and "rolls" around the inside of the cavity. Basically an ultrasonic motor, but with just the stators.

        Would also work wonders for busting up rust on a rusty bolt.

        But it would also loosen all of the other bolts that were in the vicinity of the bolt you were trying to tighten!

        And nothing currently existing beats a screwdriver for torquing the bolt that last bit so that it elastically deforms and stays tight.

    • by ajlitt (19055)

      However, Inspector Spacetime is pleased.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      It's really a sonic probe.

    • Now I can finally put the screws back in on my laptop!
    • by Plazmid (1132467)

      Don't you mean an acoustic spanner, like this:
      http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630/10/1/013018 [iop.org]

      It's been know for quite a while than one can generate a torque with soundwaves.

  • Wrench != spanner (Score:2, Informative)

    by TapeCutter (624760)
    "Wrench" is the British term for an adjustable spanner.
    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      Hmm.. so, a "monkey wrench", in british parlance, would be an enormous adjustable spanner?

      Would a really large pipe wrench qualify?

      • A monkey wrench is a monkey wrench but it's commonly called a "pair of Stilsons", Stilson is the name of a company that makes monkey wrenches. A pipe wrench is a pipe wrench. A plain old adjustable spanner is called a wrench, or more commonly a "shifter" which is shorthand for shifting spanner. Strangely a socket spanner is more commonly called a socket wrench. The same terminology is used in Australia because most of our past mechanics and engineers came from the UK.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...that's interesting, but TFS is talking about an American "wrench" being the same as a British "spanner" not the other way around.

      • Thanks, I realise it's the other way around, but I thought it was interesting too, so I posted it. ;)
    • by bLanark (123342)

      "Wrench" is the British term for an adjustable spanner.

      I disagree. An adjustable spanner is called an "adjustable spanner" where I come from. I only ever heard the term "wrench" on tv/movies.

      I also think that the article summary should say ...

      (the correct term for a wrench)

      . :-)

    • Yes, but spanner is the British term for what the Americans call a wrench, which is what the article is pointing out.
    • by Gonoff (88518)

      Wrench is the term that is used in North America for what much (most?) of the world calls a spanner.

      Don't blame the British. Blame Webster for most of the differences between what you speak and "International" English.

  • Rather than an actual physical device

    So, it's not a physical device? What is a 'physical' device? What is a 'non-physical' device? In fact, what is a 'device'? Sloppy language betrays sloppy thinking.

    You'll give me examples, but you'll probably be wrong.

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      Given the "fuzzy" nature of massive particles at the quantum scale, and their "actually" being little more than a probabalistic distribution of an energy potential, I agree.

      The best explanation I could give for a "physical" device is one that makes use of electrical charge repulsion forces to interact with another massive particle. (Eg, what keeps your hand from going right through the door when you knock on it.)

      Photons are not massive particles, and imbue kinetic forces through a completely different mecha

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @10:42PM (#42187745)

    How large/complex of a particle can they manipulate using this technology, and how fast can they move particles without risking them falling out of the "tweesers"?

    I imagine the applications as a synthesis system for synthentic long chain DNA, or synthetically generated amino acid chains, to better test protein folding under laboratory conditions.

    Synthetic DNA chain synthesis especially is a very intriguing potential application here. The tweeser needs to be able to hold up a fair amount of mass though to be useful for that though.

  • The Doctor needs an Optic Screwdriver now. (Or is this optical functionality already integrated into his current tool, accessible by a different setting, like a Harmony remote that automatically switches the right units on and off and set to the correct configuration?)
    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      No silly. The Master uses a "laser screwdriver".

      2 guesses who's working for these guys. ;)

      (Lol!)

  • Am I the only one that thought this article was about a new wrench for repairing fiber optic cables?
  • We never should allow people talk outside their area of competence. This guy Mohanty indeed seems wise and an inventor at microcell manipulations, but from there to say it will "rotate the mirror motors in Sun reflectors for deep space travel"...

    First, in "deep space" you don't have Sun, sir. We already hadn't when going to Saturn, for instance. So you'd better call it *close* interplanetary travel, rather.
    Second, using solar pressure to actuate, and even rotate things, has already been demoed in all scienc

  • A spanner that uses light?

    Hm, now if only they can develop a screwdriver using sound. THAT might be useful.

  • Fiber optic spanner is kind of a long name.

    I suggest hyperspanner [memory-alpha.org].

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