Over the past few years, researchers have demonstrated that microtubules driven by kinesin make flexible, responsive and effective molecular shuttles for nanotransport applications. In order to fully control microtubules driven by kinesin it has to be possible to switch them on, switch them off, and regulate the speed and direction of their movements - achievements that until now researchers have't fully attained yet. Now, though, it has become possible, for the first time, to achieve complete control over on/off switching of the movement of a nanomachine.
Not to be confused with the nanorobots of science fiction, for medical nanotechnology researchers a nanorobot, or nanobot, is a popular term for molecules with a unique property that enables them to be programmed to carry out a specific task. In what is the smallest 3D DNA origami box so far, researchers in Italy have now fabricated a nanorobot with a switchable flap that, when instructed with a freely defined molecular message, can perform a specifically programmed duty. Slightly larger nanocontainers with a controllable lid have already been demonstrated by others to be suitable for the delivery of drugs or molecular signals, but this new cylindrical nanobot has an innovative opening mechanism.
The construction of artificial micro- and nanomotors is a high priority in the nanotechnology field owing to their great potential for diverse potential applications, ranging from targeted drug delivery, on-chip diagnostics and biosensing, or pumping of fluids at the microscale to environmental remediation. In new work, researchers have now reported the first example of micromotors for the active degradation of organic pollutants in solution. The novelty of this work lies in the synergy between internal and external functionality of the micromotors.
There is an almost infinite number of mechanical energy sources all around us - basically, anything that moves can be harvested for energy. These environmental energy sources can the very large, like wave power in the oceans, or very small, like rain drops or biomechanical energy from heart beat, breathing, and blood flow. With the increasing use of nanotechnology materials and applications in energy research, scientists are finding more and more ways to tap into these pretty much limitless sources of energy. Self-powered nanotechnology based on piezoelectric nanogenerators aims at powering nanodevices and nanosystems using the energy harvested from the environment in which these systems are suppose to operate.
Advances in micro- and nanoscale engineering in the medical field have led to the development of various robotic designs that one day will allow a new level of minimally invasive medicine. These micro- and nanorobots will be able to reach a targeted area, provide treatments and therapies for a desired duration, measure the effects and, at the conclusion of the treatment, be removed or degrade without causing adverse effects. Ideally, all these tasks would be automated but they could also be performed under the direct supervision and control of an external user.
Most molecular machines operate by using chemical reactions, which lead to irreversible damage to the machine molecules themselves over time. Moreover, in most scenarios, the measurement and control of the molecular machine status are separated into distinct steps, e.g., the molecular motion is controlled by a chemical reaction, but is then detected by spectroscopy or electrochemistry. Researchers have now proposed a new type of molecular machine without chemical reactions and where the measurement/control mechanisms are combined into one.
Steerable nanodevices are envisioned for a multitude of applications. For example, magnetic nanodevices can be controlled via external magnetic fields. So far, scientist mainly have used costly synthetic routes to design and synthesize such devices. Now, though, a team of scientists has shown that a very simple route based on solution chemistry can also lead to such steerable machines. So far, most nano-and microscale propeller designs have been based on a biomimetic approach. The new approach is based on random aggregates.
Designing, building, and running molecule-sized nanocars has become an active field of research among nanotechnology scientists. Based on research to reinvent the wheel for nanotechnology, efforts range from the original nano car developed by James Tour at Rice University in 2005 - which had buckyball wheels and flexible axles, and served as a proof-of-concept for the manufacture of machines at the nanoscale - to 'nanodragsters', and a nano car with molecular 4-wheel drive. A new Perspective article in ACS Nano describes how this field began, its growth, and list problems to be solved.