Scientists create world’s tiniest engine that even ants may not spot!
Researchers have developed the world’s tiniest engine—few billionths of a metre in size—which is powered by light and will be used to develop nanomachines.
The engine would assist the nanomachines to navigate in water, sense the environment around them and even enter living cells to fight diseases.
The prototype device is made out of tiny charged particles of gold. It is bound together by temperature-responsive polymers in the form of a gel.
When this tiny engine is heated to a certain temperature using laser, it stores large amounts of elastic energy in a fraction of a second as the polymer coatings expel all the water from the gel and collapse.
As a result, the gold nanoparticles are forced to bind together into tight clusters.
When the device is cooled, the polymers take on water and expand, and the gold nanoparticles are strongly and quickly pushed apart—similar to the functioning of a spring.
“It’s like an explosion. We have hundreds of gold balls flying apart in a millionth of a second when water molecules inflate the polymers around them,” Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted Tao Ding from the University of Cambridge in the UK.
According to scientists, the scientific method employed in the device is simple and can be used to produce extremely fast and large forces.
The forces exerted by these tiny devices are several orders of magnitude larger than those for any other previously produced device, with a force per unit weight nearly a hundred times better than any motor or muscle.
The tiny device is also bio-compatible, cheaper, highly responsive and energy efficient.
Jeremy Baumberg from the University of Cambridge, who led the research, named the devices ‘ANTs’ (Actuating Nano-Transducers).
“Like real ants, they produce large forces for their weight. The challenge we now face is how to control that force for nano-machinery applications,” Baumberg told PTI.
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