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3-D Printing and Micro-Robots: Fish That Could Swim in Blood Stream

Aug 26, 2015 12:41 PM EDT
3-D Printed Fish
Researchers from the University of California recently 3-D-printed microfish that hold the potential for vast capabilities.
(Photo : J. Warner, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

Nanoengineers used 3-D printing to make fish-shaped microrobots. These microfish swim efficiently in liquids, and each contains functional nanoparticles. For instance, platinum nanoparticles in the tails react with hydrogen peroxide in the surrounding liquid to propel the microfish forward, and magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in the heads allow them to be steered with magnets, according to a release.

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego, developed the 3-D printing technology used to make these microfish. Their research, recently published in the journal Advanced Materials, was led by Professors Shaochen Chen and Joseph Wang of the NanoEngineering Department at UC-San Diego.

"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. With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications," Wei Zhu, co-first author and nanoengineering Ph.D. student, said in the release.


The researchers also incorporated toxin-neutralizing nanoparticles throughout the bodies of the microfish, including polydiacetylene (PDA) nanoparticles, which capture harmful pore-forming toxins such as the ones found in bee venom.

"The neat thing about this experiment is that it shows how the microfish can doubly serve as detoxification systems and as toxin sensors," said Zhu, in the release.

In addition, researchers were able to monitor the microfish's detoxification ability by observing the intensity of their red glow, since the PDA nanoparticles become fluorescent and emit a red-colored light when they bind with toxin molecules, said a statement

"Another exciting possibility we could explore is to encapsulate medicines inside the microfish and use them for directed drug delivery," Jinxing Li, the other co-first author of the study and a Ph.D. student in Wang's research group, said in the statement.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN). 

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