Image: Nanoscale brush
The bristles on the brush shown in this photomicrograph are far finer than strands of human hair. In fact, the length of each bristle is about 60 microns — half of a hair's width.
updated 5/16/2006 11:43:28 AM ET 2006-05-16T15:43:28

Nanotechnology experts have invented the world's smallest brush — a device boasting bristles a thousand times finer than a strand of human hair.

Mehrdad Ghasemi-Nejhad, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Hawaii, said the brush may be used to sweep nano dust, paint small micro-tubes and clean pollutants in water.

Nanotechnology involves the manufacture and manipulation of materials at the molecular or atomic level. At that scale, materials are measured in nanometers or billionths of a meter.

Ghasemi-Nejhad said the nanotechnology field could allow for the building of ever smaller chips that would reduce the size and weight of computers while increasing their speed and memory.

Nanotechnology may also allow for low-cost, better-performing fuel cells that use hydrogen as clean fuel, he said.

The tiny brush invention was first described last June in the journal Nature Materials. It has earned the research team, which also involves experts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., a spot in the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records.

"We need to look at the needs in the nano-world, where machines and materials can be the size of atoms and molecules," said University of Hawaii doctoral student Vinod P. Veedu. "As in the 'bigger' world, there are messes to sweep, walls to paint, tubes to unclog and electronics to power. So our invention ... demonstrates a way to make the tiniest of brushes to do these jobs."

Ghasemi-Nejhad founded the Hawaii Nanotechnology Laboratory in his department three years ago in part to train workers for a growing industry.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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