Microscopic structures experience friction because of the minute attractive forces that exist between molecules. These forces become much more significant as components are shrunk to the scale of a few millionths of a metre.
Now researchers from Cambridge University in UK, the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Southern Denmark have found a way to reduce this friction. They discovered that coating a work surface with upright carbon nanotubes allows microscopic components to be moved across the surface more easily.
The team coated a silicon wafer with a layer of upright nanotubes, spaced 100 nanometres apart through a process called chemical vapour deposition. This produced a thick "forest" of tubes, with each tube 1000 nm tall and 100 nm wide.