Robotics

3D-printed microscopic fish could be forerunners to smart "microbots"

3D-printed microscopic fish co...
As PDA nanoparticles in the microfish bodies bind with toxins, the microfish turn fluorescent red
As PDA nanoparticles in the microfish bodies bind with toxins, the microfish turn fluorescent red
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The 3D-printed microfish are loaded up with platinum nanoparticles in the tail and iron oxide nanoparticles in the head, for propulsion and steering, respectively
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The 3D-printed microfish are loaded up with platinum nanoparticles in the tail and iron oxide nanoparticles in the head, for propulsion and steering, respectively
As PDA nanoparticles in the microfish bodies bind with toxins, the microfish turn fluorescent red
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As PDA nanoparticles in the microfish bodies bind with toxins, the microfish turn fluorescent red
3D-printed microfish that are powered by nanoparticles in the tail and head could lead to a multitude of "smart" micro-sized robots that can be used for surgery, detoxification, and many other applications
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3D-printed microfish that are powered by nanoparticles in the tail and head could lead to a multitude of "smart" micro-sized robots that can be used for surgery, detoxification, and many other applications
The 3D-printed microfish are loaded up with platinum nanoparticles in the tail and iron oxide nanoparticles in the head, for propulsion and steering, respectively
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The 3D-printed microfish are loaded up with platinum nanoparticles in the tail and iron oxide nanoparticles in the head, for propulsion and steering, respectively
As PDA nanoparticles in the microfish bodies bind with toxins, the microfish turn fluorescent red
5/6
As PDA nanoparticles in the microfish bodies bind with toxins, the microfish turn fluorescent red
3D-printed microfish that are powered by nanoparticles in the tail and head could lead to a multitude of "smart" micro-sized robots that can be used for surgery, detoxification, and many other applications
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3D-printed microfish that are powered by nanoparticles in the tail and head could lead to a multitude of "smart" micro-sized robots that can be used for surgery, detoxification, and many other applications
View gallery - 6 images

Tiny 3D-printed robotic fish smaller than the width of a human hair may one day deliver drugs to specific places in our bodies and sense and remove toxins, thanks to research at the University of California, San Diego. The so-called microfish are self-propelled, magnetically steered, and powered by hydrogen peroxide nanoparticles. And they might be just the first chip off the block for a future filled with "smart" microbots inspired by other biological organisms such as birds, each with its own specialized functionality.

These microfish are not the first micro-sized robots, though. Others include the robotic micro-scallop, which got its name from its scallop-like propulsion system; laser-powered air-bubble microbots; and magnetically-levitating microbots, which as the name suggests hover in the air under control of a magnetic field.

The microfish are different in that they are both simpler to create and more sophisticated in what they can do. They are fabricated using a high-resolution 3D printing technology called microscale continuous optical printing. This process allows researchers to print hundreds of 120-microns-long, 30-microns-thick microfish at once. And they can quickly change the design to experiment with shark, manta ray, and even bird shapes by tweaking a few things in a custom-designed computer-aided design (CAD) program.

3D-printed microfish that are powered by nanoparticles in the tail and head could lead to a multitude of "smart" micro-sized robots that can be used for surgery, detoxification, and many other applications
3D-printed microfish that are powered by nanoparticles in the tail and head could lead to a multitude of "smart" micro-sized robots that can be used for surgery, detoxification, and many other applications

Each microfish contains platinum nanoparticles in its tail and iron oxide nanoparticles in its head. When placed in a solution containing hydrogen peroxide, the tail nanoparticles undergo a chemical reaction that propels the microfish forward. The nanoparticles in the head allow for the microfish to be steered with magnets.

The researchers ran a proof-of-concept experiment to see how the microfish perform with detoxification – one of many possible applications envisioned for them. They scattered toxin-neutralizing polydiacetylene nanoparticles throughout the microfish bodies and put them into a solution filled with toxins. The microfish turned fluorescent and glowed an increasingly-intense shade of red as their toxin-neutralizing nanoparticles chemically bound with the toxin molecules.

The researchers took this to mean that the microfish can serve the dual function of a detoxification system and toxin sensor. They also believe the microfish could be used for directed drug delivery, personal therapeutics, environmental conservation, and many other applications. And co-first author of the study Jinxing Li hopes to one day come up with a design that could be used to develop surgical microbots that make operations safer and more precise.

A paper describing the study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Source: UC San Diego

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1 comment
Richard D. McDowell
Science catching up with Ben Bova's scifi nanobots....watch out when they become self replicating.