Nanowalker gets moving

Posted by jerry on May 17th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Technology

Even at microscopic levels its about engineering! Nanomachines (tiny machines made up of a few molecules) have gone back to renaissance machine elements to come up with simple elements that can move in complex ways – and where it doesn’t necessarily matter if you get the odd atom in the wrong place!

While nanomotors made from variations on carbon ‘buckyballs’ have been made before, a walking robot is a whole other ball game!

A series of scanning electron microscope pictures of the spinning rotor of a nanomotor fabricated in the lab of UC Berkeley physicist Alex Zettl. The entire electric motor is about 500 nanometers across, 300 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.(Credit: Zettl lab)

Then DNA and RNA molecules have been formed into a working motor powered by the reaction by which we turn food into energy in our own bodies.

Now New York University chemists Nadrian (Ned) Seeman and William Sherman have come up with a microscopic robot made from DNA strands. New Scientist explains that the robot walks along a track – also made of DNA – which is covered in spikes to provide footholds. Of course actually seeing the robot is tricky at these sizes. But if you think of ‘seeing’ in the phenomenological sense as that which can be sensed, then these guys get around the seeing problem by looking for footprints – and finding them using a DNA ‘fingerprinting’ technique.

There will of course be many doomsayers who want to announce that this is the worst thing since white bread, I reckon the challenge will be to come up with ‘under what conditions can we…?


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