Nanomachines, also known as molecular machines or nanites, are molecular robots not larger than a strand of human hair. They can be programmed to carry out tasks in biological systems. Biologists frequently use these molecular machines to perform DNA replication and ATP synthesis tasks. Nanorobotics is one of the most promising emerging fields. The continuous investments in this area resulted in the development of even smaller and more capable nanites, actively used for life-saving and enhancing tasks.
What is a nanomachine?
The smallest being virus-sized, nanomachines are orders of magnitude smaller than a human cell, which is usually measured in micrometers (one-millionth of a meter). Researchers and engineers have turned to natural biological technology for inspiration while developing nanorobots since most robotic construction techniques would be impossible at this scale. We already have billions of organic nanobots inside us all the time, powering the many functions of our cells. Ribosomes, for example, are organic versions of biological machines at the nanoscale.
Nanites aren’t your typical mechanical robots. They are not constructed of metals or other materials that spring to mind when you think about a robot. Instead, nanomachines are built from DNA or other biological materials that seamlessly interact with biologic environments in specific ways to accomplish certain results.
How do nanobots work?
The health sector is where nanobots are primarily used. However, they’re utilized in various sectors, including climate control and the military. Medical applications include healing wounds, atomic-scale surgical equipment, and going through the body to discover and treat problems. They can also decrease toxicity and extend the drug’s sustained release period.
Types of nanites
Today’s molecular machines operate due to external stimuli, such as chemical reactions, temperature changes, or radio waves. Nanobots can be seen in many different forms:
- Switch type nanomachines using things like temperature, UV light, or chemical reactions to change from an off position to an on through the process of conformational changes.
- Nanomotors use nanotechnology to move and control molecules in the surrounding environment. Nanomotors can utilize the energy created by the conformational change to produce physical movement in neighboring molecules, making the nanomotor more complex than the nanorobotic switch.
- Nanorobotic shuttles are machines that transport specific drugs or chemicals to a certain destination. Scientists are attempting to connect these with nanomotors to control their movement in biological environments more precisely.
- Nanorobotic cars are the most advanced nanodevices to date. These machines look and work like regular cars, but they are tiny to operate in biological environments. The four-wheeler can move with light or chemistry. Scientists are still working on better controlling these devices, and light seems to be the answer.
The goal of these various nanorobotic components is to build collective nanomachines that collaborate to achieve goals on a macro level. In a manner comparable to an ant colony, a group of nanomachines can move things or overcome obstacles that would be impossible for a single individual. Collective nanomachines will perform tasks far beyond the capabilities of even the most complex components we have now.
Nanomachines in health and medicine
Organisms are predictable closed systems. Scientists have been able to predict how compounds will react once introduced into the system and build tiny gadgets that can execute complex activities undetectable to the naked eye.
Nanomachines can disrupt the cellular barrier of a tumor, causing an increase in permeability and retention (EPR effect) through the vascular endothelial cell gap. This action is targeted at the detection of cancer at the cellular level. The long reach paired with the ability to pass through several anatomic barriers and films allows for greater drug efficacy for current medications. The EPR function is beneficial for medical imaging since it uses magnetic or contrast nanorobots that may be easily guided to the tissue or structure of interest to enhance existing imaging technology.
Researchers have already built tiny robots powered by the human body that can store data, detect their surroundings, and carry out computations. Autonomous DNA nanomachines can perform biological activities in live cells, such as detecting a particular microRNA sequence found in breast cancer cells. As some nanites may recognize breast cancer cells in trace amounts, it is expected that they will be able to find target molecules missed by other methods in the future.
What is DNA origami?
DNA origami is a popular nanotechnology method with a wide range of applications. It refers to the practice of building DNA strands into specific two- and three-dimensional shapes through annealing templates that include hundreds of DNA strands. DNA origami is a popular nanotechnology method with a wide range of applications. It refers to the practice of building DNA strands into specific two- and three-dimensional shapes through annealing templates that include hundreds of DNA strands. This approach is typically used to engineer cancer-fighting nanobots. However, this technique is only marginally more accurate than standard chemotherapy. The nanobots are challenging to control once they enter a living creature and are too tiny to be detected using conventional X-ray equipment.
Future of nanomachines
Nanotechnology is expected to provide us with extraordinary new augmented abilities, with molecular machines allowing us to sense and interact with our surroundings in ways that haven’t been possible. Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted in 2005 that nanotechnology will enable humans to live forever by 2040, giving us superhuman powers. He believes nanobots might replace native blood cells and back up memories while also replenishing aging cells, essentially curing dementia.
Similarly, Dr. Robert Freitas, a nanotechnology expert at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy and Technology, claimed that by 2050, these tiny robots will organize our blood supply. They’ll be able to repair wounds or even cause new tissue growth in parts of the body where large veins have been blocked off.
The application of nanobots to consumer technology has also been discussed, such as a smart window. That idea would take the form of windows coated with nanobots that can automatically clean the glass and regulate the room temperature for greater energy efficiency. But then again, these are still early days for such a technology.
Most researchers and experts think nanorobotic applications will be incorporated into everyday social activities by the 2030s. Researchers must address problems such as communication, swarm behavior, mass production, biocompatibility, biodegradability, and control of nanorobots in deep tissues to realize the nanomachine revolution.