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Biotech Science

Moving Water Molecules By Light 96

Roland Piquepaille writes "An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) has discovered a new nanotechnology effect, the ability of moving water molecules by light. This is a far better way than current methods such as damaging electric fields and opens the way to a new class of microfluidic devices used in analytical chemistry and for pharmaceutical research. For example, this makes possible to design a device that can move drugs dissolved in water, or droplets of water and samples that need to be tested for environmental or biochemical analyses. Please read this overview for more details and references, plus an image of two water drops illuminated with a fluorescent dye and sitting respectively on a nanowire surface and on a flat surface."
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Moving Water Molecules By Light

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  • Water molecules could move light, so it was only a matter of time to reverse the process
    • Dont you remember our physics class? The water would diffract the light, oh wait I remember, we spent our physics class programming calculators.
    • Re:True or not? (Score:5, Informative)

      by lpangelrob2 ( 721920 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:18PM (#9853027) Journal
      It's not so much light moving the water, as I understand the article... it took a couple reads, but from what I can see, it's possible to overcome the fact that water sticks to an almost-non-stick surface by using light to generate a "lotus leaf" effect in the surface beneath the water... which appears to make an already slick surface even slicker.

      This effect itself isn't all that new... it's in all those stain-repellent pants that are being sold now. Being able to control the effect with light is.

  • by ikea5 ( 608732 )
    what's wrong with water hoses?
  • It probably wouldn't be that practical, but it could be effective to dehydrate certain parts of someone's body by moving the water around inside. Maybe the military could find use for that.
    • RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:28PM (#9853064) Journal
      Looks like you didn't RTFA.

      It's about changing the hydrophobic/hydrophilic (water repellent/attractive) properties of a _special_ surface using light. This doesn't work on just any surface.

      I dare say the military would prefer to dehydrate parts of your body by vapourizing bits of it e.g. zap you directly with a powerful beam of light. Or ionizing air between a thundercloud and you so that a lightning bolt zaps you ( that's to make it look like an "Act of God").

    • Nah, according to the article it seems it doesn't work that way.

      So I suppose we're not going to see a real world version of Abi Dalzim's Horrid Wilting, which sounds like a rather good thing.
  • Hydro-Computing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daniel23 ( 605413 )
    Would this mark the first step into the evolution of hydrocomputing, just light and water in miniature pipes, feasable to use under water or in environments with a high risk of explosion ?

    Would this make any sense to have?
    • Will i have to watercool my hydrocomputer of the future?
    • Interesting, but how can you call a huge device with so tiny water inside 'Hydro-Computing'?
    • This has already been around for awhile in several forms, one example is here [wikipedia.org].

      I also remember seeing an article from an old Scientific American (I think) where a group fabricated a micro-scale manifold assembly that was a divide-by-10 circuit. Ie, after 10 input 'puffs' of fluid into a circuit, the output would 'puff' once. There were no moving parts, it was just a passive container whose shape allowed this behavoir. There were other circuit elements like this too.

      • Does any one remember Ovshinsky? He made the cover of Life magazine back in the 60s with his "ovonic" micro fluid switches that were supposed to revolutionize everything. Of course that did not happen and now Energy Conversion Devices makes solar cells and batteries.

  • So, now we can move water with light.. it's not a flying car, but maybe we can make bounce-tubes (a la stranger in a strange land, the Jetsons).

    I ,for one, welcome this floorless-elevator technology.

    wait... welcome? I--*

    • As the body is mostly water could we use this as some weird transportation device ? Would it just move the water and leave the non-water bits behind - could be amusing to watch if done on someone you don't like.
    • BFD. Let me know when they can use light beams to bring me a stream of beer molecules... Oh wait... Maybe they can use this technology so that I don't have to miss my TV show to go pee?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    please visit his adverts he means, not an overview that he has cut and pasted with zero added insight

    as he would say with his boilerplate article submission template

    you can find more details in this overview of Roland Piquepaille's spamming activities here [slashdot.org]

  • back in my day we moved our water molecules by hand. Both ways, UP HILL! You kids and your newfangled technology. What ever happened to old fashioned elbow grease?

    Joking aside, it seems this actually does have some practical uses such as reducing the time and resources required performing tests during drug development.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    water displacement by feces?
    You kids and your newfangled technologies....
  • I wonder at what point everybody's going to slow down with the research in recognition of the fact that we haven't figured out a way to curb the serious abuses (i.e. the goo problem) that can occur with each new discovery in the field.

    Einstein agonized over the ramifications of his research into the atom far too late. We can already see the writing on the wall with nanotech -- perhaps it should be considered that the threat is greater than the promise?

    • How exactly does one avoid an inevitable problem by agonizing over it? How would delaying a piece of technology help to make sure it isn't abused?

      "Hmmm, I don't know about this whole atom thing, it could be used by bad people. Maybe I should just shelve this potentially groundbreaking piece of human progress until evil is eradicated."
    • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:18PM (#9853026) Journal
      The problem of this is that;

      1. It will eventually get discovered. Could we have ignored radar/gunpowder/pointy sticks inventions for this long?
      2. No matter how long you think of something or plan something out, there will be someone who comes up with a flaw in your plans. Think bugs in software or man tampering with nature.
      • Your two points address two types of flaws that could arise. 1. addresses fundamental flaws in design. 2. addresses exploits. Exploits include anything that may not even be in the original design, but which, when the design is tweaked or added onto, results in an evil. Exploits are not avoidable. Evil will not simply disappear in awe of a new technology. However, your first point sounds eerily fallacious to me. "It will eventually get discovered" sounds a lot like "They'll have the whole 4-digit thin
        • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @02:34PM (#9853447) Journal
          >However, your first point sounds eerily fallacious to me. "It will eventually get discovered"

          The atomic race was based entirely on this. Who will get the bomb first? Those in charge on either side did not have the luxury of sitting back and saying "Maybe we shouldn't" because the other side might succeed before them.

          Look at today and how many countries can produce the bomb. Most of them got the know-how independently from each other. And the US is running around trying to control it from getting out of hand.
    • by wass ( 72082 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @02:02PM (#9853277)
      we haven't figured out a way to curb the serious abuses (i.e. the goo problem) that can occur with each new discovery in the field.

      Please elaborate on the 'goo problem'. Ie, with explicit details on how it would work, not just some qualitative description, which is all that anybody seems to have at the moment.

      So somebody said that maybe all life COULD be devoured by a properly-designed nanotech robot that would reproduce quickly and break up organic matter into component monomers, etc etc etc.

      I'll say a self-aware self-replicating AI program COULD be created that would spread through the net independent of host operating system, and crash all airplanes, screw up everybody's bank accounts, erase all data, etc etc etc.

      Similarly, a 'battlebot' with enough memory COULD somehow be programmed properly that it also attains self-awareness intelligence, reproduces and builds an army of subservient battlebots, and wreaks havoc across the planet.

      So, if you are trying to claim we should stop research into nanotechnology, then we should also stop research into computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, etc.

      There is NO field where there isn't any risk that something bad could happen. Nanotech is the 'new' field, so this is where the fear-mongering comes in. You're not alone, look at comics, for instance. Most old-school Marvel superheroes got their superpowers, for better or worse, through radioactive effects, back in the fearful decades after the atom bomb. Nowadays the current fear is nanotech, and even the first Spiderman movie changed the story from a radioactive spider to a genetically-modified spider. You're doing the same thing, really.

      I work with nanotech. Just 30 minutes ago I was putting carbon nanotubes onto a substrate, and I'll eventually do some electronic transport measurements. Currently I'm scanning the substrate with an atomic-force microscope. There are TONS of amazing uses that nanotubes might have, so we're studying many of their properties. Why is my study of carbon nanotubes different from somebody determining which binary tree search algorithms are most efficient, or what shape sawblade cuts through plastic the best?

      • So somebody said that maybe all life COULD be devoured by a properly-designed nanotech robot that would reproduce quickly and break up organic matter into component monomers, etc etc etc.

        I keep reading about the grey goo, and I've yet to see an argument that it is possible from someone who demonstrates an understanding of the complex tradeoffs that limit our currently existing biological self-replicating machines. Problems like:

        1: Oxygen is both a nutrient, and a poison.
        2: The lack of a universal cataly
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:01PM (#9852937)
    If you add a bunch of nanofibers to a wax coated surface, the water will "ball up" and move around more easily. If you make the nanofibers sensitive to light, you can control the speed with which the water moves over the surface by changing the light level.
  • I have to ask myself why. We can already move liquids quite simplely and from the sounds of it, this will use huge amounts of energy just to get the light to that state.
    • "huge amounts of energy"?? We're not talking about giant 1000-watt spotlights to pump water into your swimming pool. I imagine they'd hope to use this effect with mW ultraviolet LEDs or some equivalently small, low-power light source.

      "why"? Because at this scale, it becomes fairly difficult to precisely, reproducibly move droplets of water around. Pumps and water hoses (as someone else wondered about) don't really work too well. Channels in microfluidic devices are tens to hundreds of micrometers acros
  • Fascinating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:07PM (#9852968) Homepage
    Sorry if this may be slightly off-topic, but I am absolutely fascinated with this new technology. This is clearly in the realm of what was once just Sci-Fi.

    I am so frightened (and by frightened I mean extremely excited) at how fast we are evolving technologically, I can't even get a vague picture of where we'll be 5 years from now let alone 50.

    I'd really like to hear some practical non-research based applications for this technology if any knowledgeable person might be able to help out. One of the first things I thought of was that this might be useful for creating cybernetics, since light is a lot less harmful than electricity, and I'm guessing that cybernetics of the future will involve some sort of liquid transfer on a nano scale.

    • I am so frightened (and by frightened I mean extremely excited) at how fast we are evolving technologically

      I'd say that while we're making good progress in certain fields of science and technology, we're not making enough progress in vital fields such as aerospace enginering and spaceflight (hypersonic planes, cheap and reliable manned spaceflights) or in the manipulation of genome and biochemistry in general.

      It's kind of sad that the biggest obstacle at present is the irrational fear of modifying the f

    • Yeah.. Though I'm probably younger than you are, I notice a great increase in nearly fictionous accomplishments lately. Like, quantum computers, too..they're suddenly becoming real? what the hell? And I've got the feeling somewhere there's a scientist assigned to the task of inventing a coffee machine based on nanotech.. But I wonder when the gap between actual usage and mere academics will start to thin out though, perhaps we're just overly informed nowadays and these things really won't see the daylight
    • Sorry if this may be slightly off-topic, but I am absolutely fascinated with this new technology. This is clearly in the realm of what was once just Sci-Fi.

      Agreed, their demo [dvd365.net] is pretty astonishing.
  • You know what, this could make for a good water cooler for your cpu. Instead of having a noisy pump, you could just shine a fancy light down your water tubes.
  • "Now for the small price of $999.00 you too can part the Red Sea."
  • Ummm... maybe someone should tell them that light consists of oscillating electric and magnetic fields. :)
    • by francisew ( 611090 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @06:43PM (#9854816) Homepage

      By damaging electric fields, I'd guess they mean what is used in capillary electrophoresis (Several kV are used to generate a 'zeta potential' which consists of the counterions on a glass surface moving in the electric field, and dragging water along with them). Such high voltages can have bad effects on large proteins and other things (like living cells) that you might want to move, but not electrocute (let alone boil, which happens if you crank up the voltage to make things move faster).

      IAAC (I am an analytical chemist), and in my humble opinion this is interesting, but not immediately practical, not as expansive as the article suggests (surprise!).

      • We could, for example:
      • -make an analysis system that comprised a bunch of wires crossing at different points and force droplets of different chemicals to come together to react
      • -to split individual droplets and move them around
      • -or to simply interface lots and lots of different analysis techniques without having a million junctions that all get dirty and need to be cleaned.

      Kudos to the researchers, and I want to get 10 yards of light-actuated water droplet moving wire once they have it :)

  • Just imagine moving a particular protein or DNA promoter or enzyme, which will be programed to implement certain procedures, into certain place in situ. And perhaps one day this tech can be used in the repairing of a effete cell...
  • by SnappingTurtle ( 688331 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:37PM (#9853126) Homepage
    They just moved a few molecules of water with light? My girlfriend's dad once got me moving a lot faster and further by turning on the lights.
  • Cool - laser pinball!
  • Please stop (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:58PM (#9853252)
    I appreciate that some of these stories submitted by Roland Piquepaille are about interesting topics, but EVERY single one of them includes at least one or two traffic-whoring links to his blog site, from which he derives advertising revenues. His blog site posts are generally completely inarticulate summaries and rehashings of the original articles that he writes, knowing that Slashdotters are too lazy to even read the artcle.

    Hemos seems to usually be the culprit posting the Piquepaille stories. I don't mind if Hemos wants to post stories submitted by this guy (though often even the submissions are inaccurate summaries of the original articles), but it would be appropriate to edit out his links to poorly written, uninformative summaries that he posts on his blog before posting the story. I don't mind somebody occasionally using a Slashdot submission to let the community know about some new product they or their company has developed or interesting article or book they've written, but this blatant traffic farming is way over the top.

    • Re:Please stop (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GileadGreene ( 539584 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @03:44PM (#9853813) Homepage
      I'll second that motion. The sheer quantity of Piquepaille articles is astounding [slashdot.org] - something like 1 every 2-3 days (does he give kickbacks to the /. eds?). And as you say, every single one includes links to his blog. At least Google has the courtesy to place the ads in a separate screen location, instead of embedding them directly in their "product".
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Piquepaille posts on anti-slash [anti-slash.org] - a site dedicated to crapflooding and trolling /. thus bringing the quality of the discussion here down.

        I happen to know that Piquepaille is just a karmawhore whose aim is to make money for anti-slash with his ad-links.

        Devious, isn't it?

  • As the body is mostly water could we use this as some weird transportation device ? Would it just move the water and leave the non-water bits behind - could be amusing to watch if it was done on someone you don't like. Instant dick-head, just add water !
  • This might be an interesting story. Unfortunately I stopped reading the minute I noticed the submitter thinks this method of moving water might be better than "currnet methods such as damaging electric fields." Is the submitter serious? Here's a free clue Mr. Piqupaille: LIGHT IS AN ELECTRIC FIELD. Another thing: did I miss something with electric fields being "damaging" somewhere? I wonder where this guy is getting his information from.
    • Clues here (Score:2, Informative)

      by GoPlayGo ( 541427 )
      Light is not an electric field, it is a propagating electromagnetic wave particle duality.

      To address your other point, electric fields can be very damaging when they are sufficiently high intensity. Also, electromagnetic fields can be damaging too.

      Not damaging to the water molecules, which are robust, but damaging to the materials disolved or suspended in the water, which may be delicate bio-active organic molecules. For example, there are various cell sorting systems that currently use electric fields.
  • The article does not describe Optical tweezers.. but I just wanted to note that Optical Tweezers are cool, and you can move nano particles around in cells and solutions with light using this device. We used them to measure the binding force of cell surface receptors.

    (Receptors are springs... horse is sphere)
  • That does seem to be the more pressing problem.
  • The novel effect here acutally has nothing to do with light. The 'breakthrough' is in the use of a specially formulated surfaced nano-wire that repels water better. This wire thus has a lower hysteresis, allowing the strenth of a beam of light to move a water droplet.

    A better articel title may have been "New nanotech surface allows light to manipulate water"


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