Home Technology Scientists create metal that pumps liquid uphill like a tree

Scientists create metal that pumps liquid uphill like a tree


Washington : Trees draw vast amounts of water from their roots up to their leaves hundreds of feet above the ground through capillary action. But now University of Rochester scientists have created a simple slab of metal that lifts liquid using the same principle, but at a much faster speed.

The metal may prove invaluable in pumping microscopic amounts of liquid around a medical diagnostic chip, cooling a computer’s processor, or turning almost any simple metal into an anti-bacterial surface.

“We’re able to change the surface structure of almost any piece of metal so that we can control how liquid responds to it,” said Chunlei Guo, professor of optics at the University of Rochester.

Guo and his assistant, Anatoliy Vorobyev, use an ultra-fast burst of laser light to change the surface of a metal, forming nanoscale and microscale pits, globules, and strands across the metal’s surface.

The laser, called a femtosecond laser, produces pulses lasting only a few quadrillionths of a second. A femtosecond is to a second what a second is to about 32 million years.

During its brief burst, Guo’s laser unleashes as much power as the entire electric grid of North America, all focused onto a spot the size of a needlepoint, he says.

“Imagine a huge waterway system shrunk down onto a tiny chip, like the electronic circuit printed on a microprocessor, so we can perform chemical or biological work with a tiny bit of liquid,” says Guo, according to a Rochester release.

“Blood could precisely travel along a certain path to a sensor for disease diagnostics. With such a tiny system, a nurse wouldn’t need to draw a whole tube of blood for a test. A scratch on the skin might contain more than enough cells for a micro-analysis,” said Guo.

These findings are slated for publication in the journal Applied Physics Letters.