German researchers have invented a platinum and peroxide-fuelled "nanorocket" that could propel through your blood, saliva or urine to deliver medicine precisely where disease is happening.
Who wants to be first to try it, raise your hand! No one? It probably doesn't sound all that safe, and it's not, really. Not yet anyway. But it's safer than using actual rocket fuel. And it's progress towards a super-accurate drug-delivery method.
To create the nanorockets, scientists at the Leibniz Institute of Solid State and Materials Research created a nanorocket engine with tubes coated on the inside with platinum. Then they placed the tubes in a hydrogen peroxide solution, which initiated decomposition of the peroxide into water and oxygen. As a result, bubbles shot out one end of the tube, creating thrust.
The researchers report in the Journal of the American Chemical Society that they achieved "superfast speeds" (which in nanorocket world is apparently 10mm per second-1) when they increased the fluid's temperature to 37C. One apparent problem is that with the increased speed, the nanorockets spun around rather than travelling linearly. But the researchers say they can steer it using a magnet. The next step is to dilute the solution further to make it safer, or to create rockets powered by glucose or some other harmless substance.
This is obviously a very early stage experiment. They won't be putting nanorockets in humans tomorrow — they haven't even tried it yet in animals. But it's pretty cool to watch the devices zipping around in the video below. Plus it's fun to say nanorocket. [New Scientist via PopSci; Image: Shutterstock/Fotocrisis]