Synthetic muscles make nanobots effective

Powerful synthetic muscles fabricated by researchers will now impart cutting edge to medical nanobots for diagnostics and treatment.

Although nanobots have been in the news for cancer fighting, drug delivery and parasite removal, a major hurdle in their development hinged on propelling them in the bloodstream, which requires appropriate muscles.

An international team led by University of Wollongong’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI), has developed a new twisting artificial muscle that could be used for propelling nanobots, the journal Science reports.

The muscles use very tough and highly flexible yarns of carbon nanotubes (nano sized cylinders of carbon), which are twist-spun into the required form. When voltage is applied, the yarns rotate up to 600 revolutions a minute, then rotate in reverse when the voltage is changed.

Due to their complexity, conventional motors are very difficult to miniaturize, making them unsuitable for use in nanorobotics, according to a statement from the university.

“The twisting artificial muscles, on the other hand, are simple and inexpensive to construct either in very long, or in millimetre lengths,” according to chief investigator, Geoff Spinks, an IPRI professor.

The tiny artificial muscles can twist like those in the trunk of an elephant or in the arm of an octopus, Spinks said.

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