Vibrate a solution of rod-shaped metal nanoparticles in water with ultrasound and they'll spin around their long axes like tiny drill bits. Why?
No one yet knows exactly. But researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have clocked their speed—and it's fast. At up to 150,000 revolutions per minute, these nanomotors rotate 10 times faster than any nanoscale object submerged in liquid ever reported.
The discovery of this dizzying rate has opened up the possibility that they could be used not only for moving around inside the body—the impetus for the research—but also for high-speed machining and mixing.
Scientists have been studying how to make nanomotors move around in liquids for the past several years. A group at Penn State looking for a biologically friendly way to propel nanomotors first observed that metal nanorods were moving and rotating in response to ultrasound in 2012. Another group at the University of California San Diego then directed the metal rods' forward motion using a magnetic field. The Penn State group then demonstrated that these nanomotors could be propelled inside of a cancer cell.
But no one knew why or how fast the nanomotors were spinning. The latter being a measurement problem, researchers at NIST worked with the Penn State group to solve it.
"If nanomotors are to be used in a biological environment, then it is important to understand how they interact with the liquid and objects around them," says NIST project leader Samuel Stavis. "We used nanoparticles to trace the flow of water around the nanomotors, and we used that measurement to infer their rate of rotation. We found that the nanomotors were spinning surprisingly rapidly."
The NIST team clocked the nanomotors' rotation by mixing the 2-micrometer-long, 300-nanometer-wide gold rods with 400-nanometer-diameter polystyrene beads in water and putting them between glass and silicon plates with a speaker-type shaker beneath. They then vibrated the shaker at an ultrasonic tone of 3 megahertz—much too high for you or your dog to hear—and watched the motors and beads move.
As the motors rotate in water, they create a vortex around them. Beads that get close get swept up by the vortex and swirl around the rods. By measuring how far the beads are from the rods and how fast they move, the group was able to work out how quickly the motors were spinning—with an important caveat.
"The size of the nanorods is important in our measurements" says NIST physicist Andrew Balk. "We found that even small variations in the rod's dimensions cause large measurement uncertainties, so they need to be fabricated as uniformly as possible for future studies and applications."
According to the researchers, the speed of the nanomotors' rotation seems to be independent of their forward motion. Being able to control the "speed and feed" of the nanomotors independently would open up the possibility that they could be used as rotary tools for machining and mixing.
Future avenues of research include trying to discover exactly why the motors rotate and how the vortex around the rods affects their interactions with each other.
*A.L. Balk, L.O. Mair, P.P. Mathai, P.N. Patrone, W.Wang, S. Ahmed, T.E. Mallouk, J.A. Liddle and S.M. Stavis. Kilohertz rotation of nanorods propelled by ultrasound, traced by microvortex advection of nanoparticles. ACS Nano, Articles ASAP (As Soon As Publishable) Publication Date (Web): July 14, 2014. DOI: 10.1021/nn502753x.
Mark Esser | Eurek Alert!
Knots in chaotic waves
29.07.2016 | University of Bristol
International team of scientists unveils fundamental properties of spin Seebeck effect
29.07.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.
To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...
A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology
On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.
While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.
Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.
Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...
Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases
Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...
29.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
29.07.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
29.07.2016 | Life Sciences
29.07.2016 | Event News