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MagnetoSperm could find use in drug delivery, or even baby-making

By

June 3, 2014

A MagnetoSperm in action

A MagnetoSperm in action

When it comes to moving simply but effectively through a liquid medium, few things are as good as sperm. This fact isn't lost on scientists, who have built tiny sperm-like robots (or even used "hijacked" sperm) in efforts to create new methods of targeted drug delivery, among other potential applications. The latest such endeavor has resulted in a batch of microrobots known as MagnetoSperm.

The robots were created by scientists at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, and the German University in Cairo, located in Egypt.

Measuring just 322 microns long, each one consists of a silicon support wafer covered in a layer of SU-8, which is a polymer known for its mechanical stability and ease of fabrication. While their tails (or flagella) are left bare, the robots' heads are coated with a layer of cobalt-nickel.

When subjected to an oscillating magnetic field roughly equivalent to that emitted by a decorative fridge magnet, magnetic torque on the head causes it move back and forth. This in turn causes the flagellum to oscillate, propelling the robot forward. By angling the line of the magnetic field, it's possible to steer the MagnetoSperm toward a target.

The team is now working on making the robots even smaller, and possibly replacing their flagella with ones made from a better-performing magnetic nanofiber. Along with drug delivery, it is hoped that they could ultimately also be used for applications such as cell sorting, in vitro fertilization, and the cleaning of clogged arteries.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

Source: AIP Publishing

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
6 Comments

Is there a medical term for "fear of small scale technology"? My reaction to seeing this stuff is probably not entirely unlike an elephant with a fear of mice.

Daishi
3rd June, 2014 @ 06:37 pm PDT

@Daishi. Yes there is a term for it:

Microphobia the fear of microscopic or small things, esp. germs

Brian M
4th June, 2014 @ 02:30 am PDT

I feel like this technology is very interesting. It can be extremely useful in drug delivery.

Siyuan Xing
4th June, 2014 @ 10:40 am PDT

Magneto of X Men "contribution" to science. ;-)

Jason Unwin
4th June, 2014 @ 01:46 pm PDT

If this is done will these children have Magnetic personalities ;-) ?

James Jordan
7th June, 2014 @ 09:48 am PDT

Cleaning clogged arteries? That would lower my blood pressure, extend my life, and increase blood flow to my brain. The latter being my chief concern, for better memory and cognitive function. Hope I don't die waiting.

Don Duncan
7th July, 2014 @ 03:50 pm PDT
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