Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder have found that tiny, self-propelled nanorobots traverse mazes 20 times faster than other passive particles, so they can be used to find pollution and clean up difficult areas.
Nanorobots are tiny synthetic moving particles made of polymer or silica. They consist of two particles that form a sphere, each of the halves has different chemical properties: one hemisphere contributes to the occurrence of chemical reactions, due to this, a chemical field appears, through which the particle receives energy from the environment and uses it to move. Such nanorobots, scientists say, can be used to clean contaminated soil, improve water filtration, or even deliver drugs to areas of the body, such as dense tissues.
Daniel Schwartz, senior author of the paper, stated that nanorobots caught the attention of the theoretical physicist community about 20 years ago. However, it was not possible to use them to their full capacity, in part because it was previously difficult to observe and simulate their movement in the respective environments.
The authors named their nanorobots made of two halves of spheres Janus particles. They then tested the particles in an artificial maze, which they traversed 20 times faster than Brownian particles. The Janus particles were strategically moved along the walls of the cavity in search of holes, which allowed them to find exits very quickly.
Particles of about 250 nanometers in size are slightly wider than a human hair, so they can move and penetrate into microscopic spaces such as tissues of the human body to transport goods and deliver drugs, or, for example, move through soil to remove contaminants.
The next step in this direction of research: to understand how nanorobots behave in groups in closed environments or in combination with passive particles.