The Smallest and Fastest Nanomotor Yet
by Lisa Winter
Photo credit: Cockrell School of Engineering at UT
Nanotechnology in medicine promises targeted drug delivery while not harming healthy cells. There are a variety of approaches to accomplishing this goal, one of which is a nanomotor. Nanomotors are devices that use energy to move, as opposed to nanoparticles, which typically rely on biochemical signaling. A team of researchers led by Emma Fan from the University of Texas have developed the smallest, fastest, and longest lasting nanomotor to date. The details of the device have been published in Nature Communications.
Previously, nanomotors have rotated at about 14-500 RPMs for a maximum of a few minutes. The nanomotor designed by Fan’s team is capable of rotating at 18,000 RPMs for an astounding 15 hours straight. The device itself is smaller than a human cell, and at less than 1 micrometer, it is 500 times smaller than a grain of salt. This powerful movement allows the nanomotor to move through a liquid medium; an important part of use in the human body.
During experimentation, biochemicals were coated onto the nanomotor to simulate drug delivery. As the team increased the rotational speed of the nanomotor, the more quickly the chemicals were shed off. In terms of drug delivery, this is very important. Timing of dispersal can be critically important to the drug’s efficacy.
“We were able to establish and control the molecule release rate by mechanical rotation, which means our nanomotor is the first of its kind for controlling the release of drugs from the surface of nanoparticles,” Fan said in a press release. “We believe it will help advance the study of drug delivery and cell-to-cell communications.”
The three-part nanomotor utilizes AC and DC fields to assemble the nanowire, microelectrode, and nano magnetic. Once the nanomotor has been assembled, magnetic forces bring it to life and give it movement. The nanowire is able to spin both clockwise and counterclockwise, and they can be positioned to work together and achieve better results.
The next steps of this research will use the nanomotors in a scenario that is more true to life by having it administer biochemicals again, though this time near living cells. Ultimately, Fan would like to create a nano machine with arms that can literally grab onto diseased cells for diagnosis and treatment purposes.