Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have successfully created nano-sized fish out of materials that react to their environment, thus allowing them to “swim” in various liquids. These fish are equipped with nanoparticles that can be used to inject chemicals into cells and organs. Compared to the traditional nano-scale robots these robots are actually shaped like swimming things.
By combining 3D printing technology with microrobots, the team was able to create a batch of microfish that can swim around when placed in a solution containing hydrogen peroxide. The fish have functional platinum nanoparticles in their tails, which react with the hydrogen peroxide thus propelling the microfish forward. Magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in their heads allows them to be steered with magnets.
Apart from being used for delivery systems for medicines, the fish can also be used to clean up toxins in water. As a demonstration, the researchers included polydiacetylene (PDA) nanoparticles throughout the bodies of the microfish. These nanoparticles can capture dangerous pore-forming toxins such as the ones found in bee venom. The swimming fish were able to seize and neutralize the toxins faster than normal chemical reactions thanks to their brisk swimming. I, for one, welcome our tiny fish-shaped robotic overlords. Though it seems a bit fishy, the concept is not floundering at all. In fact it could scale to great proportions.