. 24/7 Space News .
Microagents with revolutionary potential
by Staff Writers
Zurich, Switzerland (SPX) Mar 28, 2016

The Janus particles move by means of rotating magnetic fields (l.). If the magnetic field is altered, the microrobots generate an electric field (r.). A chemical compound (bluish green bullet) is released which than destroys defective cells. Image courtesy ETH Zurich and Salvador Pane. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Salvador Pane was on a trolleybus in Zurich one day after work. He was deep in thought when the bus came to a sudden stop because the cable was disrupted. He was struck by an idea: "Why can't we create a microrobot that generates an electric field wirelessly?"

The idea stayed with him and, as a result, the ETH researcher and his colleagues have since succeeded in creating tiny particles that can be precisely controlled by magnetic fields and also generate electric fields.

This may sound relatively unspectacular to the uninitiated, but it is a breakthrough. What makes it unique is that a microstructure with a single source of energy is not only moved, but also can be brought to exercise another functionality.

Until now, this had been possible only independently of each other. Pane and his team from the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems have published their research results in the scientific journal Materials Horizons. Their findings could one day revolutionise medicine.

Like the layers of a lasagne
Pane, a chemist, has spent the past few years dealing with magnetoelectric micro and nanorobots, which can be stimulated by electromagnetic fields. Some of these materials are composed of different layers, with each exhibiting a different reaction to the magnetic field.

"You have to imagine it like a lasagne with two layers: one layer responds to the field by changing its volume. These materials are magnetostrictive," explains Pane. "Due to the stress transferred, the second piezoelectric layer becomes electrically polarized.

The scientists have made good use of this effect: they coated the microparticles on one side with two different metal layers, one of cobalt ferrite (magnetostrictive) and the other of barium titanate (piezoelectric) - two layers of the lasagne. When a magnetic field is generated around the particles, the inner layer of cobalt ferrite expands and the outer layer of barium titanate deforms, generating an electric field around the microparticles. The magnetoelectric effect was demonstrated by inducing electrochemical reactions.

Bringing drugs to their targets
The microrobots are named after Janus, the two-headed Roman god, because they are also composed of two halves. The Janus particles move by means of rotating magnetic fields. If the magnetic field is then altered, the microrobots generate an electric field. This opens up a wide range of applications, particularly in the field of medicine.

"We could equip the microrobots with drugs, for example, and target them directly at cancerous tumours in the body, where they would then unload their cargo via the stimulus of the generated electric field," explains Pane.

"This would virtually eliminate the side-effects of cancer drugs because only the cancer cells would be attacked. In addition, the precise application would significantly increase the efficacy of cancer therapies." However, other applications, such as the wireless electrical stimulation of cells, could expand regenerative medicine in a revolutionary way.

Much research before application
Many questions still have to be answered before the microrobots can actually be used as a vehicle to transport drugs. For example, it is not yet clear which is the most efficient structure of material combination with the highest magnetoelectric properties. In addition, the microrobots have to be tested for their compatibility with the human body.

"A lot of experiments still need to be done," says Pane. He cites corrosion as an example: "This is often overlooked at the micro and nanoscale, but it needs to be thoroughly investigated." Corrosion is capable of affecting not only the function of a device but can also cause contamination.

"We have to look very carefully if we want to use a technology for a medical application," emphasises the researcher.

For this reason, in the development of micro and nanorobots his team is not limiting itself to technical feasibility alone, but is also exploring the compatibility, toxicity and efficiency of the robots. Pane is convinced that the microrobots will one day have the potential to make an important contribution in the field of biomedicine. It would be the (provisional) end of a journey that began on a Zurich trolleybus.

Chen X-Z, Shamsudhin N, Hoop M, Pieters R, Siringil E, Sakar MS, Nelson BJ, Pane S: Magnetoelectric micromachines with wirelessly controlled navigation and functionality. Materials Horizons 2016, 3: 113-118, doi: 10.1039/C5MH00259A

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
ETH Zurich
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Local fingerprint of hydrogen bonding captured in experiments
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Mar 28, 2016
Molecules are composed of atoms that maintain specific intervals and angles between one another. However, the shape of a molecule can change, for example, through proximity to other molecules, external forces and excitations, and also when a molecule makes a chemical connection with another molecule, for instance in a chemical reaction. A very useful concept in describing the changes that ... read more

Ancient Polar Ice Reveals Tilting of Earth's Moon

Moon Mission: A Blueprint for the Red Planet

The Lunar Race That Isn't

Earth's moon wandered off axis billions of years ago

Mars Express keeps watch on frosty Martian valleys

HiRISE: 45,000 Mars Orbits and Counting

Opportunity moves to new locations to the southwest

NASA: Manned mission to Mars still 'long way' off

ASU to develop the next generation science education courseware for NASA

The latest technology helping take mankind to new planets

Space-Related Budget Requests for FY17

New DNA/RNA Tool to Diagnose, Treat Diseases

Has Tiangong 1 gone rogue

China's 1st space lab Tiangong-1 ends data service

China's aim to explore Mars

China to establish first commercial rocket launch company

Cargo ship reaches space station on resupply run

Unmanned Cygnus cargo ship launches to ISS on resupply run: NASA

Cygnus Set to Deliver Its Largest Load of Station Science, Cargo

Three new members join crew of International Space Station

India to launch 22 satellites by single rocket in May

MHI signs H-IIA launch deal for UAE Mars mission

Launch of Dragon Spacecraft to ISS Postponed Until April

ILS and INMARSAT Agree To Future Proton Launch

Instrument Team Selected to Build Next-Gen Planet Hunter

Oddball planet raises questions about origins of 'hot Jupiters'

Investigating the Mystery of Migrating 'Hot Jupiters'

Most eccentric planet ever known flashes astronomers with reflected light

Local fingerprint of hydrogen bonding captured in experiments

Printing nanomaterials with plasma

Lockheed Martin Opens Space Fence Test Facility

Uncovering bacterial role in platinum formation

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.