HongKong chemists develop world’s first light-seeking nanorobot
New Delhi, Nov 19: Scientists have developed the world’s first light-seeking blood cell-sized nanorobot which can be injected into patients’ bodies, helping surgeons to remove tumours and enabling more precise engineering of targeted medications.
The findings of the team of researchers led by Dr Jinyao Tang of the Department of Chemistry, the University of Hong Kong, have been published in the leading scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology.
The famous science fiction movie “Fantastic Voyage,” for instance, shows a group of scientists driving their miniaturised nano-submarine inside the human body to repair a damaged brain.
“Terminator 2” features billions of Nanorobots assembling into the amazing shape-shifting body: the T-1000.
In the real world, however, it is quite challenge to design a sophisticated nano robot with such advanced capabilities.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded to three scientists for “the design and synthesis of molecular machines”.
They developed a set of mechanical components at molecular scale which may be assembled into more complicated nano machines to manipulate single molecule such as DNA or proteins in the future.
The development of tiny nanoscale machines for biomedical applications has been a major trend of scientific research in recent years.
Any breakthroughs will potentially open the door to new knowledge and treatments of diseases and development of new drugs.
One difficulty in nanorobot design is to make these nanostructures sense and respond to the environment.
Given each nanorobot is only a few micrometer in size which is 50 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, it is very difficult to squeeze normal electronic sensors and circuits into nanorobots.
Currently, the only method to remotely control Nanorobots is to incorporate tiny magnetic inside the Nanorobot and guide their motion via an external magnetic field.
The nanorobot developed by Dr Jinyao Tang’s team use light as the propelling force, and is the first research team globally to explore the light-guided nanorobot and demonstrate its feasibility and effectiveness.
Dr Tang’s team demonstrated the unprecedented ability of these light-controlled nanorobots as they are “dancing” or even spell a word under light control.
With a novel nanotree structure, the nanorobots can respond to the light shining on it like moths being drawn to flames.
Dr Tang described the motions as if “they can “see” the light and drive itself towards it”.
The team gained inspiration from natural green algae for the nanorobot design.
In nature, some green algae have evolved with the ability of sensing light around it.
Even just a single cell, these green algae can sense the intensity of light and swim towards the light source for photosynthesis.
Dr Jinyao Tang’s team spent three years to develop the nanorobots.
With a novel nanotree structure, these robots are composed of two common and low-price semiconductor materials: silicon and titanium oxide.
During the synthesis, silicon and titanium oxide are shaped into nanowire and then further arranged into a tiny nanotree heterostructure.
Dr Tang said: “Although the current nanorobot cannot be used for disease treatment yet, we are working on the next generation nanorobotic system which is more efficient and biocompatible.
” Light, he says, is a more effective option to communicate between microscopic world and macroscopic world.
“We can conceive that more complicated instructions can be sent to nanorobots which provide scientists with a new tool to further develop more functions into nanorobot and get us one step closer to daily life applications,” the chemist added.