NanoEngineering professor Joseph Wang is part of a team of researchers from the United States and Germany who have found that the speed of synthetic "nanomotors" responds to nearby concentrations of silver. The followins is an excerpt from a news story in "Chemistry World," published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The discovery suggests that nanomotors could be used to detect trace levels of silver and other toxic substances in water supplies - a practice that has previously required bulky instrumentation. Nanomotors are
nano-sized machines that can convert energy into motion. For a long time the only known nanomotors were biological and made from natural proteins, but in the last decade scientists have been able to create synthetic nanomotors with similar activity.
Alex Zettl, a nanomotor researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, thinks the work is exciting because it shows that local chemical reactions can change the visible motion of an object. 'Overall, this is beautiful work and it will very likely lead to more exciting discoveries in ion chemistry and nanoparticle propulsion,' he said.
Image above displaying the movement of five randomly selected nanomotors over three seconds in 11 different metal-nitrate salt solutions showing increased motion in the presence of silver © The American Chemical Society