ACS Nano, 8(9):8794-8801, June 2014, Featured cover article. (article)
Tissue and biological fluids are complex viscoelastic media with a nanoporous macromolecular structure. Here, we demonstrate that helical nanopropellers can be controllably steered through such a biological gel. The screw-propellers have a filament diameter of about 70 nm and are smaller than previously reported nanopropellers as well as any swimming microorganism. We show that the nanoscrews will move through high-viscosity solutions with comparable velocities to that of larger micropropellers, even though they are so small that Brownian forces suppress their actuation in pure water. When actuated in viscoelastic hyaluronan gels, the nanopropellers appear to have a significant advantage, as they are of the same size range as the gel’s mesh size. Whereas larger helices will show very low or negligible propulsion in hyaluronan solutions, the nanoscrews actually display significantly enhanced propulsion velocities that exceed the highest measured speeds in Newtonian fluids. The nanopropellers are not only promising for applications in the extracellular environment but small enough to be taken up by cells.
Motility in living systems is due to an array of complex molecular nanomotors that are essential for the function and survival of cells. These protein nanomotors operate not only despite of but also because of stochastic forces. Artificial means of realizing motility rely on local concentration or temperature gradients that are established across a particle, resulting in slip velocities at the particle surface and thus motion of the particle relative to the fluid. However, it remains unclear if these artificial motors can function at the smallest of scales, where Brownian motion dominates and no actively propelled living organisms can be found. Recently, the first reports have appeared suggesting that the swimming mechanisms of artificial structures may also apply to enzymes that are catalytically active. Here we report a scheme to realize artificial Janus nanoparticles (JNPs) with an overall size that is comparable to that of some enzymes similar to 30 nm. Our JNPs can catalyze the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen and thus actively move by self-electrophoresis. Geometric anisotropy of the Pt-Au Janus nanoparticles permits the simultaneous observation of their translational and rotational motion by dynamic light scattering. While their dynamics is strongly influenced by Brownian rotation, the artificial Janus nanomotors show bursts of linear ballistic motion resulting in enhanced diffusion.
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems