Chiang Mai University involved in tiny nanobot's human voyage
A Chiang Mai University team has developed a motor so small it will power a microscopic robot on an expedition through human blood vessels.
Boffins at the university's science faculty describe their invention as a "nanomotor". It will drive a medical robot about the size of a blood cell on a tour of the maze of human veins and capillaries.
A "nanobot" - or nanotechnology robot - developed at Kent State University in Ohio, United States will be powered by a motor made of an extremely fine and pure ceramic created at Chiang Mai University.
In addition to powering the nanobot, the piezoceramic - also known as "smart ceramics" - motor will navigate the machine on its exploration for such things as tiny tumours in internal organs.
It is remote controlled by either low-voltage electric current or microwaves, explains head researcher Assoc Prof Supon Ananta.
Stimulated by electric current or microwaves, piezoceramics can be enlarged or shrunk by nano levels, propelling the nanobot forward, back, left or right - just like a submarine.
Supon has focused on ceramic studies since his undergraduate days 15 years ago. He is now armed with a master's degree in ceramic engineering and a doctorate in material science from the Leeds University in the United Kingdom.
Before Supon and his team came up with the smart-ceramics motor Kent State's nanobots were shy a power plant, he explained.
"Actually, they had some idea what were the ideal materials for a motor, yet the problem was they could not synthesise such an extremely pure material," Supon said.
The techniques he designed to synthesise smart ceramics have appeared in Materials Letters, the interdisciplinary journal of the Materials Research Society devoted to cutting-edge advances in the field of materials science and engineering.
Apart from nanobots, smart ceramics can also be used in other medical equipment - including ultrasound and scanning machines used to diagnose problems in the brain, spinal cord and heart, Supon said.
In ultrasound devices, for example, the main and most expensive component was made of smart ceramics, he said, adding that his synthesised smart-ceramic motor in an ultrasound machine cost Bt100,000 - cheap, compared with alternatives priced as high as Bt10 million.