Nanotech Researchers Create World's Smallest Brush

University of Hawaii 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, 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 has earned the research team, which 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 UH 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 UH department three years ago in part to train workers for a growing industry.