Smart micro-robot fish could revolutionise drug delivery systems

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have 3D-printed a school of fish-shaped micro-robots that can swim in liquids, powered by hydrogen peroxide and magnetically controlled.

The microfish are a proof-of-concept of a new generation of “smart” micro-robots that can perform a range of tasks such as detoxification and directed drug delivery,

“We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers that have complex geometric structures and are smaller than the width of a human hair,” said the co-first author Wei Zhu, a nanoengineering PhD student. 

“With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications.”

The fabrication technique has numerous improvements over previous methods. Nanoengineers  installed platinum nanoparticles in the tails, which react with hydrogen peroxide to propel the microfish forward, and magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in the heads, which allowed them to be steered with magnets.

The research, led by Professors Shaochen Chen and Joseph Wang of the NanoEngineering Department at the UC San Diego, was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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