By using bacterial flagella as a template for silica, researchers have demonstrated an easier way to make propulsion systems for nanoscale swimming robots.
A feature of science fiction stories for decades, nanorobot potential ranges from cancer diagnosis and drug delivery to tissue repair and more. A major hurdle to these endeavors, however, is finding a way to cheaply make a propulsion system for these devices. New developments may now propel nanoswimmers from science fiction to reality thanks to unexpected help from bacteria.
An international research team has demonstrated a new technique for plating silica onto flagella, the helix-shaped tails found on many bacteria, to produce nanoscale swimming robots. As reported this week in APL Materials, from AIP Publishing, the group’s biotemplated nanoswimmers spin their flagella thanks to rotating magnetic fields and can perform nearly as well as living bacteria.
“We have shown for the first time the ability to use bacterial flagella as a template for building inorganic helices,” said MinJun Kim, professor of mechanical engineering, Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University and one of the authors of the paper. “This is quite a transformative idea and will have a great impact on not only medicine but also other fields.”
Compared to larger forms of aquatic motion, nanoswimming hinges on an understanding of the Reynolds number, the dimensionless quantities that relates fluid velocity, viscosity and the size of objects in the fluid. With a Reynolds number of one-millionth our own, bacteria must use nonreciprocal motion in the near absence of inertial forces. Using helical tails made of a protein called flagellin, many species of bacteria navigate these microscopic conditions with relative ease.
“If we were shrunk down to the size of a bacteria, we would not be able to use the breast stroke to move through water,” Kim said. “If bacteria were the size of us, they could swim 100 meters in about two seconds.”
Other recently developed methods for constructing these helical structures employ complicated top-down approaches, including techniques that involve self-scrolling nanobelts or lasers. The use of this specialized equipment can lead to very high startup costs for building nanorobots.
Instead, Kim’s team used a bottom-up approach, first culturing a strain of Salmonella typhimurium and removing the flagella. They then used alkaline solutions to fix the flagella into their desired shape and pitch, at which point they plated the proteins with silica. After that, nickel was deposited on the silica templates, allowing them to be controlled by magnetic fields.
“One challenge was to make sure we had helices with the same chirality. If you rotate a left-handed helix and a right-handed helix the same way, they will go in different directions,” Kim said.
STEM image of silica templated flagella; scale bar is 1 ?m.
CREDIT: Jamel Ali
The team took their nanorobots for a spin. When exposed to a magnetic field, the nanorobots kept up the pace with their bacterial counterparts and were projected to be able to cover 22 micrometers, more than four times their length, in a second. In addition to this, the team was able to steer the nanoswimmers into figure-eight paths.
While Kim said he sees potential for nonconducting nanoscale helices in the area of targeted cancer therapeutics, he added that with his team’s work, one might plate conductive materials to flagella and produce helical materials for electronics and photonics.
The Latest on: Nanobots
- How do you defeat death, sci-fi style? With nanobots, ice, and computers, of courseon March 25, 2020 at 3:02 pm
According to his estimation, pretty soon we'll be adding time to our life expectancy faster than we can spend it. He imagines a time in which nanobots will course through our bodies, repairing damage ...
- Mini-nukes and mosquito-like robot weapons being primed for future warfareon March 18, 2020 at 2:13 pm
The U.S., Russia and China are believed to be investing billions on nanoweapons research. "Nanobots are the real concern about wiping out humanity because they can be weapons of mass destruction ...
- Europe Nanobots Market will take the highest jump during 2020-2025on March 15, 2020 at 7:22 pm
"Robotics is a technology used for production of robots and nanorobots. Nanobots are used in various fields for different tasks to be performed thus reducing human errors. "Robotics is a ...
- Europe Nanobots Market will take the highest jump during 2020-2025on March 15, 2020 at 8:23 am
"Robotics is a technology used for production of robots and nanorobots. Nanobots are used in various fields for different tasks to be performed thus reducing human errors. "Robotics is a technology ...
- Self-Propelling Targeted Magneto-Nanobots for Deep Tumor Penetration and pH-Responsive Intracellular Drug Deliveryon March 12, 2020 at 5:00 pm
The present work, demonstrates a nanobot drug delivery platform that facilitates propulsion in biological fluids, cellular targeting, modulates the intracellular release and enhanced penetration ...
- Hashtag Trending – Google grasps quantum supremacy; nanobots kill cancer; Uber’s wageson March 5, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Google takes one step closer to achieving quantum supremacy. Scientists use nanobots to kill cancer in mice. And Uber fires back on a study about how much its drivers are paid. Trending on Google ...
- Nanobots Market Growth Statistics, Sales Projection, Future Trends, Insights, Dynamics and Industry Analysis By 2023on November 25, 2019 at 1:11 am
The Nanobots Market Size is projected to be motivated to attain USD 100 billion in earnings while flourishing at a CAGR of 21 % in the forecast period. The pathbreaking developments in robotics ...
- Posts Tagged: nanobotson April 25, 2019 at 1:19 am
ETHZ, one of the Swiss universities involved in the recent microbot breakthrough, received a patent in 2013 for a related technology. U.S. Patent No. 8405256, entitled Wireless Resonant … ...
- What are nanobots?on April 3, 2019 at 9:28 am
Nanobots à la Michael Crichton's Prey and other science fiction contraptions of nanoscale robots don't exist (yet). Not to be confused with these fictional nanorobots, for medical nanotechnology ...
- Ultrasound and nanobots — a deadly duo against canceron February 14, 2019 at 2:44 am
A researcher sees a patient’s most painful and intimate moments when developing new treatments for cancer. Working assiduously to improve those treatments, some progress is made. Occasionally ...
via Google News and Bing News