Researchers in Texas have created the nano-version of the Energizer Bunny. Their new nanomotor rotates at 18,000 RPMs for a whopping 15 hours. Previous nanomotors rotated far more slowly and sputtered out after a few minutes.
The tiny technology, also known as "Ultrahigh-Speed Rotating Nanoelectromechanical System (NEMS)" is a potential breakthrough for treating all kinds of human ailments including, you guessed it, cancer. Built by a team at Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and led by Dr. Donglei (Emma) Fan, the motor is actually a collection of nano-entities, including a nanowire and patterned nano magnets.
In their research paper, the engineers recount all the less successful previous nano-work the new nanomotor is built upon, including experiments from Cornell University where out of hundreds of synthesized nanomotors, only a few rotated and at UC Berkeley, which built an excellent nanomotor using electron-beam lithography that, unfortunately, required an overly complex fabrication procedure.
Cockrell's nanomotor, however, is built more simply and effectively in part because of another Cockrell invention, Electric Tweezers, a nano-manipulation technique that allowed the team to not only transport the nano-entities, but precisely position them within 150 nanometers and then rotate them exactly how they wanted.
Not only can these nanomotors rotate like nobody's nano-business (almost as fast as a Lear jet engine), a group of them can do it in sync.
At 500 times smaller than a grain of salt, these nanomotors could one day work inside cellsAt 500 times smaller than a grain of salt, these nanomotors could one day work inside cells and spin together to deliver cancer-killing medicines.
The future, however, is even crazier. Researchers envision building entire nano robots out of a group of these nanomotors, which can then work together to diagnose, grab and treat cells.
The nanomotor joins an ever-growing list of nano-breakthroughs. Earlier this year, researchers in Denmark built a drug-delivery cage out of DNA. Maybe one day the nanomotors will go to work while carrying these nanocages.