Researchers have built a nano-engine that could form the basis for future applications in nano-robotics, including robots small enough to enter living cells.
Researchers have developed the world’s tiniest engine – just a few billionths of a metre in size – which uses light to power itself. The nanoscale engine, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, could form the basis of future nano-machines that can navigate in water, sense the environment around them, or even enter living cells to fight disease.
The prototype device is made of tiny charged particles of gold, bound together with temperature-responsive polymers in the form of a gel. When the ‘nano-engine’ is heated to a certain temperature with a laser, it stores large amounts of elastic energy in a fraction of a second, as the polymer coatings expel all the water from the gel and collapse. This has the effect of forcing the gold nanoparticles to bind together into tight clusters. But when the device is cooled, the polymers take on water and expand, and the gold nanoparticles are strongly and quickly pushed apart, like a spring. The results are reported in the journalPNAS.
“It’s like an explosion,” said Dr Tao Ding from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, and the paper’s first author. “We have hundreds of gold balls flying apart in a millionth of a second when water molecules inflate the polymers around them.”
“We know that light can heat up water to power steam engines,” said study co-author Dr Ventsislav Valev, now based at the University of Bath. “But now we can use light to power a piston engine at the nanoscale.”
Nano-machines have long been a dream of scientists and public alike, but since ways to actually make them move have yet to be developed, they have remained in the realm of science fiction. The new method developed by the Cambridge researchers is incredibly simple, but can be extremely fast and exert large forces.
The forces exerted by these tiny devices are several orders of magnitude larger than those for any other previously produced device, with a force per unit weight nearly a hundred times better than any motor or muscle. According to the researchers, the devices are also bio-compatible, cost-effective to manufacture, fast to respond, and energy efficient.
Professor Jeremy Baumberg from the Cavendish Laboratory, who led the research, has named the devices ‘ANTs’, or actuating nano-transducers. “Like real ants, they produce large forces for their weight. The challenge we now face is how to control that force for nano-machinery applications.”
The research suggests how to turn Van de Waals energy – the attraction between atoms and molecules – into elastic energy of polymers and release it very quickly. “The whole process is like a nano-spring,” said Baumberg. “The smart part here is we make use of Van de Waals attraction of heavy metal particles to set the springs (polymers) and water molecules to release them, which is very reversible and reproducible.”
The Latest on: Actuating nano-transducers
via Google News
The Latest on: Actuating nano-transducers
- How to train your drugs: from nanotherapeutics to nanobotson June 26, 2017 at 2:54 am
It's biocompatible, cost-effective to manufacture, fast to respond and energy efficient. The forces exerted by these 'ANTs' (for 'actuating nano-transducers') are nearly a hundred times larger than ...
- This scientist wants to build a teeny-tiny robot to zap diseases in your bodyon June 24, 2016 at 2:45 am
The researchers called their find, which was recently published in the journal PNAS, actuating nano-transducers (ANTs). Now that they know what the little gold particles are capable of, says Baumberg, ...
- Powering nanotechnology with the world's smallest engineon May 24, 2016 at 6:20 am
The image of an ant, capable of lifting several times its own weight, comes to mind. Hence the name for our discovery: actuating nano-transducers – or ANTs. The ANTs consist of gold nanoparticles ...
- Cambridge Makes World’s Smallest Engine, And It’s Tiny Enough to Enter Cellson May 4, 2016 at 4:59 pm
The team has christened the devices “ANTs”— “actuating nano-transducers,” which is very apt, considering that tiny insect’s notorious propensity to do heavy lifting all out of proportion to its size.
- Laser-powered nano-engine promises robotic applicationson May 4, 2016 at 4:51 am
Cambridge researchers say their ANTs (actuating nano-transducers) could one day treat living cells. Like real ants, the nano-devices produce large forces relative to their weight. Researchers at ...
- Cambridge scientists lay claim to world’s tiniest engine, a million times smaller than an anton May 3, 2016 at 3:37 am
Baumberg named the engines “actuating nano-transducers” — ANTs, for short, just like the small but strong insects. Tao and Baumberg aren’t the first scientists to claim creation of an incomprehensibly ...
- Scientists create world's tiniest light-powered engineon May 3, 2016 at 12:09 am
Baumberg named the devices ANTs, or actuating nano-transducers. "Like real ants, they produce large forces for their weight. The challenge we now face is how to control that force for nano-machinery ...
- World's tiniest engine small enough to enter living cellson May 2, 2016 at 3:36 pm
Professor Jeremy Baumberg from the Cavendish Laboratory, who led the research, has named the devices 'ANTs', or actuating nano-transducers. "Like real ants, they produce large forces for their weight.
- World's tiniest nano-engine is powered by LIGHTon May 2, 2016 at 1:00 pm
The simple device consists of tiny charged particles of gold bound into a polymer resin gel. These 'actuating nano-transducers', or Ants, can deliver almost a hundred times more force per unit weight ...
- Little ANTs: Researchers build the world's tiniest engineon May 2, 2016 at 12:23 pm
Researchers have developed the world's tiniest engine - just a few billionths of a metre ... has named the devices 'ANTs', or actuating nano-transducers. "Like real ants, they produce large forces for ...
via Bing News