Nanoscale Imaging Technology
By tailoring the structures of materials at extremely small scales, we can develop applications with the power to revolutionize multiple sectors, from medicine and energy to transportation and electronics.
In the ever-changing technology landscape, two things are certain: “embedded” and “portable” are where the world is headed. And for consumers to be able to take their devices wherever they go—or for those devices to be implanted into the human body, and stay there indefinitely—the technology will need to get smaller. So small, in fact, that the human eye can’t see it.
Unless you’re Beena Kalisky.
Bar-Ilan quantum physicist Beena Kalisky, leader of an international research team that studies quantum technologies with 2-dimensional oxides, built a Superconducting QUantum Interference Device (SQUID) to observe electronic behavior on the nano scale. One of less than a handful of such devices in the world, SQUID is capable of operating at the extremely low temperatures in which quantum fluctuations occur, sensitive enough to detect the many physical phases that these fluctuations include, and non-invasive enough to keep from disturbing or amplifying the fluctuations themselves. The images they reveal of the nanoscale world never fail to surprise—and to point to new directions for technological advancement.
Seeing is Believing—in the Possibilities
Kalisky’s quantum-microscopy technology can serve as the basis for imaging systems where both high levels of sensitivity and low levels of invasiveness are desired. These include systems used by the medical field to detect cancerous cells—and systems used by the military to detect stealth aircraft. It can also discover new materials whose structures can be tailored at extremely small scale to achieve specific properties, and thereby dramatically expand our scientific toolkit.
Among the rapidly growing list of benefits and applications of nanotechnology to our world are the following:
- Electronics and IT: Nanotechnology and nanomaterials are the basis of faster, smaller, and more portable systems that can manage and store ever-larger amounts of information. They include transistors for storing an entire computer’s memory on one tiny chip, and flexible electronics, which can be integrated into wearables, medical and aerospace applications, and the Internet of Things.
- Medicine and Healthcare: The application of nanotechnology in medicine is producing imaging tools capable of earlier diagnosis, more individualized treatment options, and better therapeutic success rates, while graphene nanoribbons are a promising option for the repair of spinal cord injuries.
- Energy: Nanotechnology is enhancing alternative energy approaches to help meet the world’s increasing energy demands, whether by improving the efficiency of fuel production from raw petroleum materials by means of better catalysis, or helping solar panels convert sunlight to electricity more efficiently.
- Transportation: Nanotechnology can help develop materials for lighter, safer, smarter, and more efficient vehicles, including airplanes and spacecraft. In addition, nanoscale sensors and devices may provide cost-effective, continuous monitoring of the structural integrity of bridges, tunnels, rails, and parking structures.
Help Realize a Revolution in Technology
Kalisky, who was recently awarded the European Research Council’s prestigious Euro 2 M Consolidator Grant for research with SQUID probing, is deeply aware of the responsibilities inherent in her ability to see what most of science can’t. Indeed, she insists that she strives to choose projects that tackle problems with large implications for society. When asked where she hopes her research can take us in the next five or ten years, she thinks for a moment and then smiles: “To infinity and beyond.”