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Danes Forge Nanotools

A robotic hand can pick up, move, and solder nanometer-scale components

2 min read

Peter Bøggild is making a toolbox—one with very small tools. As leader of the Nanohand project at Mikroelektronik Centret (MIC) in the Technical University of Denmark (Lyngby), he has directed the construction of a pair of tweezers that can pick up and move nanoparticles and a soldering device that can fasten them to just about anything. ”[It’s] similar to the tools used in making electronics in a workshop,” he says. The Nanohand could be used to build experimental nanometer-scale research devices, such as transistors made with semiconducting nanowires. But Bøggild’s goal is more fundamental. ”We’re taking the concept of the hand as a basic human tool” and shrinking it down, he says. ”We want to know how far it can go.”

Handy in a pinch: the Nanohand is a silicon set of tweezers for picking up nanometer-scale objects. Electrostatic forces caused by voltages at five electrodes open and close the tweezers. Gold extensions [inset] decrease the gap between the tips to just 100 nm, and gaps as small as 25 nm have been produced.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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