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Author Topic: Victorian nanotech  (Read 1602 times)
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« on: March 11, 2007, 08:11:35 pm »

The Steampunk Relativity thread reminded me of a recent news story that Maxwell's Demon an 1867 thought experiment has been shown to be right and is being used as the basis for nanotechnology. The news item has gone now but I blogged up the relevant bits and you can find some more in the relevant Wikipedia entry.

It does links through to the Nature news article but you need to be a subscriber to access it.

The actual paper (a good title too):

Quote
Nature 445, 523-527 (1 February 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05452; Received 9 June 2006; Accepted 15 November 2006

A molecular information ratchet

Viviana Serreli1, Chin-Fa Lee1, Euan R. Kay1 and David A. Leigh1

   1. School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, The King's Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JJ, UK

Correspondence to: David A. Leigh1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to D.A.L. (Email: David.Leigh@ed.ac.uk).

Motor proteins and other biological machines are highly efficient at converting energy into directed motion and driving chemical systems away from thermodynamic equilibrium. But even though these biological structures have inspired the design of many molecules that mimic aspects of their behaviour, artificial nanomachine systems operate almost exclusively by moving towards thermodynamic equilibrium, not away from it. Here we show that information about the location of a macrocycle in a rotaxane—a molecular ring threaded onto a molecular axle—can be used, on the input of light energy, to alter the kinetics of the shuttling of the macrocycle between two compartments on the axle. For an ensemble of such molecular machines, the macrocycle distribution is directionally driven away from its equilibrium value without ever changing the relative binding affinities of the ring for the different parts of the axle. The selective transport of particles between two compartments by brownian motion in this way bears similarities to the hypothetical task performed without an energy input by a 'demon' in Maxwell's famous thought experiment. Our observations demonstrate that synthetic molecular machines can operate by an information ratchet mechanism, in which knowledge of a particle's position is used to control its transport away from equilibrium.


www.nature.com/nature/journal/v445/n7127/abs/nature05452.html

A commentary:
www.nature.com/nnano/journal/v2/n3/abs/nnano.2007.52.html

The news article sums it up nicely:

Quote
Leigh credits Maxwell for establishing the fundamentals for understanding how light, heat and molecules behave.


From his Wikipedia entry:

Quote
James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish mathematician and theoretical physicist. His most significant achievement was formulating a set of equations — eponymically named Maxwell's equations — that for the first time expressed the basic laws of electricity and magnetism in a unified fashion. He also developed the Maxwell distribution, a statistical means to describe aspects of the kinetic theory of gases. These two discoveries helped usher in the era of modern physics, laying the foundation for future work in such fields as special relativity and quantum mechanics. He is also known for creating the first true colour photograph in 1861.


Not too shabby!!
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Steampunk Collective thread
Lasairfion
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2007, 08:19:44 pm »

That's pretty impressive. Who'd have thought such concepts were formed in the way back then.
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2007, 08:27:51 pm »

Yes indeed. In the one man we virtually have nanotech and quantuum physics.

I tracked down the page on this from the people behind the project with more explanations, diagrams and you can download a PDF of the paper from there:

www.catenane.net/home/maxwellpaper1.html

All told with the help of lots of little pictures of demons.
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