Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Nanobot Repairs: Small solutions to Big Problems

The nanoscience industry is moving forwards faster than ever, as new technological advances allow researchers to study the effects of various nanoparticles more closely. Recently, a group of researchers from University of Pittsburgh and University of California, San Diego discovered a new use for autonomous nanobots by taking a hint from microbiology.
Nanobots are so small that they cannot be individually controlled by lines of code or any sort of AI, so they must be made from materials that exploit the laws of particle physics to accomplish their goals. Designing nanobots to be fully autonomous is a huge challenge because they have to perfectly pair structure and function. Their function has to be limited by the laws of the physical environment in which they are used, and their structure must be limited by their stability within that environment. The researchers were able to successfully repair an electrical circuit using the nanobots they designed.
The nanobots created by these researchers are made of gold and platinum bound together in a Janus particle, which are spherical nanoparticles that have two or more distinct physical properties based on the elements of their construction. In a Hydrogen Peroxide solution, the platinum side acts as a catalyst to the release of oxygen, and the reaction is so rapid that it acts as the propulsion for the nanobot. While the platinum side acts as a “nanomotor”, the gold side is able to patch energetic wells and obstacles like surface cracks that otherwise disrupt the flow of electrons. Any damage to the physical structure of the circuit was discovered by the nanobots because the propulsion system is altered at these sites to induce particle localization. These autonomous particles successfully repaired a scratched, non-functioning electrical circuit all on their own.
The design for the nanobots was inspired by the ability of platelets in blood to localize at a damaged site in order to “patch” the break. Nanobots driven by chemical energy are a proof of concept design that sheds light on the possibilities of autonomous reparative nanobot designs in the future, and suggests applications in a wide range of fields.

- Josef Mazzuchi (group 2)


  1. Nanobots could have so many possible uses that in a way it is kind of scary. I read a book about a secret company working on nanobots for athletes in an attempt to increase their endurance and ability. While this seems unneeded, another article I cam across talked about a mini propellor, like that of a boat, designed at the nanoscale to use for different nanobots. Soon, nanobots could be used for many functions that could better the planet.

    - Chris Richard

    1. I find the most frightening part is how closely nanotechnology tends to mirror biology. All the applications in biomechanics find a way to integrate these tiny machines into living tissues, which makes them effectively a sort of helpful robotic infection. It's scary to realize how easily nanobots could be turned from something helpful into something harmful.

  2. It's astounding to consider the vast amount of different technologies in development today that apply to medical treatment. It's exciting yet also a little scary to think that one day we could have robots, on both the macro and micro scales driving our medical treatment.

    Allen Currier