TUM scientists develop new electric propulsion technology for nanorobots

TUM scientists develop new electric propulsion technology for nanorobots

By eeNews Europe

This breakthrough allows nanobots to be used in the molecular factory assembly line. The nanofactory is an aim of scientists around the world, and many are developing new technologies for the processes. Nanofactories will be used to analyse biochemical samples or produce active medical agents. Miniature machines for nanofactories are being produced using the DNA-origami technique, but these machines are too slow for practical use. The machines carry out activities, such as gathering or transporting molecules when activated, but these activities can take minutes or hours. A practical nanofactory won’t be achieved until a method of making these processes quicker is developed.

TUM’s new propulsion technology moves the machines by applying electrical fields to the DNA molecules, which have a negative charge. In theory, this technique should allow the nanobots to be accurately steered. The researchers, under lead author Enzo Kopperger, attached several million nanobot arms to a glass substrate and put it in a sample holder with specially designed electrical contacts. Each machine has a nanometer arm attached to a rigid 55 by 55 nanometer base plate with a flexible joint made of unpaired bases to allow the arm to rotate arbitrarily in the horizontal plane.

Working with fluorescence specialists at the Ludwig Maximillians University Munich, the researchers marked the robot arm tips with dye molecules that allowed their motion to be visible under a fluorescence microscope. Then by changing the direction of the electrical field, the researchers could alter the arms’ orientation and control their locomotion process. The newly developed control technology can be suited to many applications, including applying force to molecules.

The research was funded by the Collaborative Research Program SFB 1032 “Nanoagents” by the German Research Foundation and the International Graduate School of Science and Engineering at TUM, as well as the Center for Nano Science and the BioImaging Network at the Ludwig Maximillians University in Munich.

The research results be published in the journal Science on 19th January.

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