Researchers at Penn State University have developed a novel self-propelled micromotor, which could one day swim through a patient’s blood stream, deploying drugs or repairing blood vessels en route. Professor Ayusman Sen led researchers at the university to develop the microbots, which they expect might also be used for microfluidic diagnostics and to assemble miniature structures.
The micromotors are composed of spheres measuring less than a micrometer in width. The spheres are divided into halves, with one side made of gold and the other of silica. To propel the devices, the scientists attached a molecule known as a Grubbs catalyst to the silica side to cause polymerization. When dropped into a solvent containing norbornene, the motors could be prompted to move forward, depositing a polymer trail in their wake.
Sen explains that the research is a demonstration of proof of principle that will lay the foundation for future research. “[P]ractical applications will take at least a decade,” he told Medgadget. Sen hopes that the research will inspire other scientists to look for new methods to induce movement.
Abstract in Angewandte Chemie: A Polymerization-Powered Motor