Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have created an aerosol that is capable of providing benefits to both our health and the environment.
The aerosol spray that the research team has created contains nanobots. These microscopic robots contain sensors and are becoming increasingly prevalent in scientific fields that focus on nanotechnology and nanobotics. These can then be applied to find solutions in a wide variety of industry applications including health and construction.
In July 2018, the MIT aerosol researchers published their findings in the monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal, Nature Nanotechnology.
The research team all belong to MIT and include Pingwei Liu, Daichi Kozawa, Albert Liu, Anton Cottrill, Youngwoo Son, and Jose Lebron. The US Office of Naval Research and the Swiss National Science Foundation supported these efforts.
Explaining the purpose of the study, Michael Strano, the Carbon C. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and senior author of the study, explained: “We wanted to figure out methods to graft complete, intact electronic circuits onto colloidal particles.”
The aerosol nanobots contain two parts: a colloid and a complex circuit. The colloids, which are tiny and can remain suspended in a liquid or the air for an indefinite period, is an insoluble particle or molecule. The circuit part of the sensor has a chemical detector that is formed from two-dimensional material.
If this detector meets a particular chemical in its environment, its electricity-inducing capabilities rise. A photodiode, which can turn ambient light into electric current, is also present to provide power to activate the circuit’s memory and enable it to collect data.
Identifying a number of real-life and industry applications, the MIT team notes that its nanobot aerosols can be used to detect ammonia.
The researchers carried out a study to show the potential in this area through finding the toxic chemical in a sealed pipe. Rather than looking at the entire pipe, inspectors could spray the aerosol and enable it to travel down the pipe, securing the end of the pipe with a cloth.
In the future, the team anticipates it will play an important role in diagnosing health issues in the human body through the digestive tract.
Oil and gas conduits, chemical and biosynthetic reactors, along with autonomous environmental sensors are other relevant areas for application.
“We see this paper as the introduction of a new field [in robotics],” encouraged Strano.