The end of Moore’s law. Nanoparticle interactions inside a “fishbowl.” Nature’s tiniest machines. And the 100 Billion Nanometer Dash. Here's a special “nano” edition of the Engineering360 news brief.

October 9 is “National Nano Day.” The date was designated by the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative as a way of paying homage to the nanometer scale, which is measured at 10 to the minus-9 power meters. Here’s a look at some current “nano” headlines.

The End of Moore’s Law

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention. Although “Moore’s law” predicted that this trend would continue into the foreseeable future, we have begun to reach the limits set by the basic physics of materials used for magnetic data storage. But research by a team at MIT may shatter those limits by making use of a recently discovered magnetic phenomenon – tiny disturbances known as “skyrmions.” By introducing defects into magnetic surfaces, the team has been able to control the creation of these disturbances, which has the potential to lead to ever-denser data storage and very-high speed data encoding.

Inside the Fishbowl

A team of University of Illinois engineers is using tiny, aquarium-like containers to observe nanoparticle interactions. Their intention is to gain more control over the self-assembly process of engineered materials. Self-assembling nanoparticles are one component of what makes things like LED displays, solar cells and batteries work. Using a new method of electron microscopy, the researchers are not only observing the self-assembly process as never before possible -- they are also finding it possible to control the process in a way that will make a difference in a material’s properties and application. They describe it as “almost like playing with tiny Legos toys.”

Nature’s Tiniest Machines

Although the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to scientists who built synthetic molecular machines, researchers at Princeton have discovered that humans don’t have a monopoly on building at the nanoscale. A lasso-shaped bacterial peptide capable of altering its configuration when exposed to heat opens the possibility of looking to biology, as well as engineering, for source material in developing molecular devices. Applications could include everything from microrobots to deliver drugs to the human body to new types of materials that adapt to environmental changes in real time.

Run 100 Billion Nanometers

Finally, one of the ways Nano Day is being celebrated is the 100 Billion Nanometer Dash, a challenge that’s been embraced by several schools. You won’t need ultramarathon training to compete though, as 100 billion nanometers is only about the length of a football field.

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Happy Nano Day!