23 January 2018

Nanorobots with electric drive

Researchers from the Technical University of Munich, led by Professor Friedrich Simmel, have developed a new technology for moving nanorobots under the action of an electric field. It will allow molecular machines to move a hundred thousand times faster than in the conditions of existing biochemical technologies. Increasing the speed will enable nanorobots to work quickly and smoothly on molecular "conveyors".

Researchers around the world are actively using nanotechnology to interfere with the work of cells at the molecular level. With their help, biochemical processes are studied, drugs for the treatment of serious diseases are created.

A molecular assembly line is a complex process, the end result of which is the construction of a new molecule. The building blocks of this system are activated by enzymes, light, or sections of DNA. They collect new molecules and transport them to their destination.

Current technologies do not allow molecular nanosampling machines to work fast enough: it takes them several minutes or even hours to perform a relatively simple operation.

Thus, to build a nanotechnological assembly line, a new way of transportation must be used. The Munich researchers decided to abandon biochemical processes in favor of electrical ones. 

Rotation of the nanocrane controlled by an electric field

The principle of operation of electrically guided nanorobots is quite simple. DNA molecules have a negative charge, so the movement of the molecule along the DNA strands can be induced by the action of an electric field. In other words, electrical impulses can be controlled by the assembly line.

To confirm the hypothesis, an experiment was conducted: several million nanorobots were fixed on a glass base and placed in a holder in a specially designed electrical circuit.

Each nanorobot was a rigid plate 55x55 nm, to which a handle up to 400 nm long was attached by the type of joint: a flexible joint allowed the handle to move freely in a horizontal plane relative to the plate.

In collaboration with fluorescence specialists from Ludwig Maximillian University of Munich, the researchers marked the tip of the handle of nanorobots with pigment molecules in order to be able to observe its movement using a fluorescent microscope.

Rotation of the nanorobot handle (blue and red colors)

By changing the charge of the electric field, the researchers observed the movement of the handles of nanorobots in different directions, thus controlling the process of their movement.

The use of electricity has accelerated the process of movement of nanorobots by an average of one hundred thousand times: now the speed is measured on a millisecond scale.

The new technology is not only suitable for moving pigments and nanoparticles. The handles of nanorobots can also affect molecules. This can be used to diagnose and create drugs.

Nanorobots are small and economical. Millions of nanorobots can work simultaneously, searching for specific substances in a sample or synthesizing complex molecules.

Article by Enzo Kopperger et al. A self-assembled nanoscale robotic arm controlled by electric fields is published in the journal Science.

Aminat Adzhieva, portal "Eternal Youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on the materials of the Technical University of Munich: Piecework at the nano assembly line.

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