Single-atom nanoconstruction now has a yardstick: IBM and URegensburg researchers have a new number for you -- they've calculated exactly how much effort is needed to drag a single cobalt atom across the surface of different metals. This could be important for nanotechnology because it can help tiny builders determine how stable an atom is on a surface before building structures on it. The answer is 210 piconewtons -- they used an atomic force microscope (AFM) equipped with a qPlus sensor. That's about 2 billion times less force than you expend when you lift a copper penny.
Making oodles of hydrogen fuel, atom by atom, cheaper than gas: Startup QuantumSphere claims to have perfected the manufacture of highly reactive catalytic nanoparticle coatings that would make electrolysis -- the technique used to generate hydrogen and oxygen from water -- a lot cheaper and more effective. These coatings display as much as 1,000 times the surface area of traditional materials and the company thinks that by using them, they can retrofit existing electrolysers to increase their efficiency to 85 percent (10 percent better than the DoE's goal for 2010) and hit 96 percent efficiency before hydrogen fuel cell autos are in the showroom. And gas suppliers won't have to change a thing -- the company also thinks that the consumer can use their technology to make hydrogen in the garage, maybe even in the car since the process is so effective you have literally have "hydrogen on demand."