Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:



Polymerization reaction drives micromotors

Though it seems like science fiction, microscopic “factories” in which nanomachines produce tiny structures for miniaturized components or nanorobots that destroy tumor cells within the body and scrape blockages from our arteries may become reality in the foreseeable future. Nanomotors could transport drugs to specific target organs more rapidly or pilot analytes through the tiny channels on microchip diagnostic systems.

In the journal Angewandte Chemie, Ayusman Sen and his team from Pennsylvania State University (USA) describe a new type of micromotor that is powered by a polymerization reaction and deposits tiny threads along its trail like a microspider.

The motors consist of spheres that are barely a micrometer in size, made half of gold, half of silicon dioxide. Certain catalyst molecules (a Grubbs catalyst) that catalyze polymerizations can be attached to the silicon dioxide surface. Sen and his team use norbornene as a monomer. The catalyst opens the rings and strings these monomers together into long chain molecules.

As soon as the reaction begins, the spheres start driving through the surrounding liquid. How is it that such a reaction can cause movement? The secret lies in the two different halves of the spheres. The monomer is only consumed on the side where the catalyst molecules are present. This causes the monomer concentration to decrease until it is lower than on the catalyst-free gold side. The resulting concentration gradient produces osmotic pressure, which causes a tiny current of solvent molecules toward areas with higher monomer concentration—toward the gold side. This miniature current drives the micromotor in the opposite direction.

Somatic cells—in processes such as embryogenesis—and certain single-celled organisms can follow concentration gradients of messenger substances or nutrients, a phenomenon known as chemotaxis. The new micromotors are also capable of such directed movement. The scientists used norbornene-filled gels that slowly leach out the monomer. The micromotors sense this and preferentially move towards the gel, following the nutrient gradient like a single-celled organism. The reason for this is that the polymerization goes faster when there is more monomer near the catalyst. This effect causes the local current driving the spheres to become stronger as well.

It is thus possible to direct the micromotors toward their target. In a solvent where the resulting polymer is insoluble, it could be deposited in the trail left behind; a microspider that moves around weaving a web. The micromotors can also be used to detect defects and fractures, moving towards them and sealing them with polymer.

Author: Ayusman Sen, Pennsylvania State University, University Park (USA),
Title: A Polymerization-Powered Motor
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article:

Ayusman Sen | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular doorstop could be key to new tuberculosis drugs
20.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

nachricht Modified biomaterials self-assemble on temperature cues
20.03.2018 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>