Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the atomic and molecular scale, holds great promise for everything from incredibly fast computers to chemical sensors that can sniff out cancer cells. But how does one go about building a device made of parts that are one-billionth of a meter in size?
Over the years, scientists have developed tools for this microscopic handiwork. Take for example optical tweezers, which use light to trap and move objects that measure one-millionth of a meter. Researchers use optical tweezers to manipulate biological materials such as proteins. However, using light to manipulate even smaller nanometer-scale objects is tricky business. There are other techniques for the job, but it’s safe to say there’s plenty of room for more tools in the nano toolbox.