A team of engineers at the University of Texas at Austin recently created the world's smallest, fastest nanomotor. Designed to power microscopic machines that could deliver medicine or fight cancer, this thing will fit inside of a human cell. And boy can it purr.
The three-part nanomotor is less than one micrometer on all sides. That's roughly 500 times smaller than a grain of rice. Nevertheless, it can run for 15 hours straight at 18,000 RPMs. That's roughly the speed of a jet engine. The speed of the spin matters too. The engineers found that the faster the nanomotor spun, the faster the drugs are released.
So how does one build such a tiny, high performance device. Well, the Texans used a patent-pending technique cooked up by Donglei "Emma" Fan, who led the research. It uses AC and DC electric fields to assemble and operate the nanomotor. In the end, the device has only three parts: a nanomagner, a nanowire and a microelectrode. More details of the assembly and design are in a paper published on Tuesday in Nature.
It will take some time before these little engines are swimming around in our bloodstream, but we're a big step closer to that reality than we were a week ago. In other words, cancer doesn't stand a chance. [Nature]
Picture: University of Texas at Austin