Researchers at the universities of Northern Iowa and Nebraska are experimenting with nanotechnology to build a better magnet. U-N-I physics professor Paul Shand says they’ve had to create their own equipment for manipulating and studying very small particles, called nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter and a meter is about a yard long. To put it in perspective, it takes one-hundred-thousand nanometers to span the width of a human hair. Shand, along with researchers in Cedar Falls and Lincoln, are working with magnets and crystals at the atomic level to come up with ways of making electric motors smaller and better. Shand says electric motors are everywhere. Electric motors are used in everything from computer disc drives to washing machines and from blenders to hybrid gas/electric cars, which are becoming increasingly popular due to the bounding gasoline prices. Shand is heading up the team which recently won a 123-thousand dollar grant from the National Science Foundation. Shand says they’re trying to improve the properties of magnets by making them more powerful and more compact to, in turn, make electric motors smaller and more efficient.
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