World’s Smallest Nanomotor Developed in Texas

Nanoelectrochemical systems (NEMS) is a scientific field which focuses on the development of miniature machines which are more efficient but needs less resources to produce.

In a breakthrough health informatics study in the University of Texas in Austin, a team of biochemical engineers have developed what is now known to be smallest and longest-running nanomotor to date. Its dimensions are all measured to be less than 1 micrometer which renders it fit to be placed inside a cell. The device can continue spinning for as long as 15 continuous hours with the speed comparable to a motor in a jet airplane engine at 18,000 RPMs. This is about 3 times the speed of currently known nanomotors which has the capability to spin from 14 RPMs to only a maximum of 500 RPMs. These nanomotors are also way behind with regards to length of time that they can function which is only a few seconds up to a few minutes.

longest-running nanomotor

image credit: hitconsultant.net

The health informatics research team led by Mechanical engineering assistant professor Donglei “Emma” Fan, was able to develop a three-part nanomotor which has the capability to move through liquids and mix and pump biochemical compounds. The study, which was published in Nature Communications journal, is an important breakthrough in future developments and biomedical science innovations with regards to cell to cell communication and drug delivery.

The ability of the device to delivery therapeutic agents was evaluated by coating the surface of the device with biochemical compounds and manually started the spinning. The team observed that increasing the rate of the device’s spinning translated to faster drug release.

Fan, a biomedical engineering and biomedical engineering expert explains that by establishing control over the ability of the device to release drugs by mechanical rotation, the newly developed nanomotor is now known to be the first of its kind with regards to regulated drug release.

The team was also able to make the nanomotor more flexible and powerful by positioning the device in such a way that synchronized movement can be done.

Mechanical controls together with chemical sensing are parts of the future plans of Fan and her team. They hope to integrate these into nanoelectrochemical devices. Their priorities, however,   are set on simulating the device in the proximity of a live cell which will give Fan and the rest of the team more information as to the controlled delivery of biochemical molecules.

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