Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.
Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead from industrial wastewater from a level of 1000 parts-per-billion to down to below 50 parts-per-billion in just an hour. The lead can lat-er be removed for recycling, and the micromotors can be used over and over again.
“The outer shell of the microbot, which is graphene, captures the lead,” says Samuel, group leader at the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) in Barcelona.
“The inner layer of platinum works as the engine, decomposing hydro-gen peroxide as fuel so that the bot can self-propel.” When hydrogen peroxide is added to the wastewater, the platinum decomposes it into harmless water and oxygen bubbles, which are ejected from the back of the microbot to propel it forward. “It’s important to use a system of pollutant re-moval that doesn’t produce any additional contamination," explains Samuel.
Between the graphene oxide and platinum layers is a layer of nickel that allows researchers to con-trol the movement and direction of the microbot magnetically from outside. “A magnetic field can be used to collect them all from the water when they’ve finished,” says Samuel.
“In the future, our microbot s swarm could be controlled by an automated system that magnetically guides them to carry out various tasks.”
Heavy metal contamination in water – by lead, arsenic, mercury and other metals – stems from in-dustrial activities and poses a serious risk to public health and wildlife. These new microbots – each one smaller than the width of a human hair – offer a solution that is potentially faster and cheaper than current methods of water cleaning, as well as being environmentally friendly: they enable the gathered pollutants to be dealt with responsibly by relinquishing the lead afterwards for recycling, as well as being reusable themselves.
Beyond the capture of heavy metal contamination, the researchers studied self-propelled microbots that are capable of degrading organic pollutants. The microbots can be recovered and reused for multiple times for up to 5 weeks without any decrease in their organic-degradation performance.
"We now plan to develop our microbots to be able to collect other contaminants, as well as reducing the cost of making them and being able to mass-produce them," says Samuel, who also works on self-propelling micro- and nanorobots for applications in areas such as drug delivery.
Annette Stumpf | Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme
'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine