Nano Padlocks - On the Horizon

by Suzann Kale - Date: 2007-03-31 - Word Count: 310 Share This!

As more scientists enter the molecular engineering field, the reality of nanotechnology in our day to day lives gets closer. A recent example is the development of a new kind of lock. A keypad lock. Made from one molecule.

Organic chemist Abraham Shanzer, with his team at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, described his new security device in the Dec. 19, 2006 Journal of the American Chemical Society.

This type of lock could have any number of applications. It could be used, perhaps with a pool of similar molecules, to safeguard critical information. It could also be used in the body to detect miniscule chemical changes, giving it medical applications as well.

The lock is similar in concept to an ATM keypad - except that unlocking it is much more complex. Using a password made of a specific sequence of chemicals and light, it could be virtually unhackable.

Shanzer and his colleagues are already working on more complex sequences of chemicals and longer series' of light pulses to use as passwords.

Basically, what Shanzer did was take a virus molecule called a FLIP (Flice inhibitory protein), which is acidic in nature, and link it to an alkaline compound and an ultraviolet light-sensitive compound. These three elements - the FLIP, the compound, and the light - are essentially the buttons that make up the keypad. The lock will not open unless each button is exposed to its own complex password. Once the first password has been entered, the other two must be entered within minutes of each other to keep the keypad from re-setting.

According to John Burch, head writer for Nanofuture2030, nanotechnology will soon affect our lives in every way - from security and medicine to product production, food distribution, and manufacturing.

Molecular engineering is an exciting field, and it's being researched by scientists around the globe, including teams at the University of Oregon, Penn State, and Rice University.

Related Tags: molecules, flip, nanotechnology, nano padlocks, abraham shanzer, molecular engineering, nano keypad

Suzann is a technical writer and copy editor. She helps edit, and is the voiceover for the ground-breaking animation, Productive Nanosystems: From Molecules to Superproducts, by Dr. Eric Drexler and John Burch. A full-time writer, Suzann has written many articles for science-oriented sites and hard copy magazines, and runs a site on cosmetics and animal safety.

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