Scientists from Rice University have managed to create a micro-submarine that can be used to deliver drugs to patients in a more effective manner. The tiny submarine is only 244 atoms in size, and it is able to move in a liquid environment by using a propeller that is powered by ultraviolet light.
This nanoscale submarine is said to move incredibly fast given its size. With a single flick of its propeller, the submarine travels 18 nanometers. This is extremely impressive, because the propeller completes about one million revolutions per minute. This means that the submarine can travel 2.5 centimeters every second. For a nano-sized object, that is lightning fast.
The microscopic submarine is about ten nanometers in size. It can even carry materials of the same size without being slowed down. One researcher said it was like a person walking down a basketball court with 1,000 other people throwing basketballs at them.
Most people who have seen the submarine through a microscope say that it moves much like that of the flagellum of bacteria. The movement process involves some unique steps.
First, ultraviolet light strikes the double bond that connects the rotor to the main body of the submarine, making it into a single bond. By removing one bond, the rotor conducts one-fourth of an entire rotation. The rotor, which is trying to achieve a state of lower energy, jumps to the next adjacent atom, where it makes another one-fourth of a rotation. This process will forever continue as long as the submarine has access to ultraviolet light.
While the submarine still needs to be worked on, the scientists believe that should eventually be a very effect method of delivering drugs to patients. Now that the submarine has proven to be a successful concept, the scientists will work to create opportunities and real world applications for their mini project.