Researchers from the National University of Singapore created the world's first nanosized heat engine, made from nanometre-thick fluorinated graphene. Such a tiny engine may be useful in nanorobotics and nanomachines. It can also be used as a valve for microfluids.
The new nano-engine is made of graphene and weakly chemisorbed ClF3 molecules. The CIF3 molecules are used as actuators. The engine uses a laser light beam as the “ignition plug” - when the CIF3 molecules are exposed to the laser (532 nm wavelength) they sublimate - which expand the volume at the interface between the graphene and the substrate it is grown on. This generates a high pressure (around 23 MPa) and creates a "dome-like blister". The expansion (and later contraction when the laser is turned off) is equivalent to the motion of a piston in an internal combustion engine. The blister size can be controlled by changing the laser power.