The gears above are just 380 microns across, or about four times thicker than a human hair. They're being turned by bacteria that are bumping into the spokes. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory developed the bacteria-powered gears in an effort to develop "hybrid biomechanical systems." The speed at which the gears turn can be controlled by changing the amount of oxygen in the solution. From an Argonne National Lab press release:
The microgears with slanted spokes, produced in collaboration with Northwestern University, are placed in the solution along with common aerobic bacteria, Bacillus subtilis. Andrey Sokolov of Princeton University and Igor Aronson from Argonne, along with Bartosz A. Grzybowski and Mario M. Apodaca from Northwestern University, discovered that the bacteria appear to swim around the solution randomly, but occasionally the organisms will collide with the spokes of the gear and begin turning it in a definite direction.
A few hundred bacteria are working together in order to turn the gear. When multiple gears are placed in the solution with the spokes connected like in a clock, the bacteria will begin turning both gears in opposite directions and it will cause the gears to rotate in synchrony for a long time.
This tiny “soft” robot, just 3cm long, zips along at 20 of its body lengths per second. It can also carry heavy things, like peanuts in the shell, but that slows it down a bit. And amazingly, you can step on it and it won’t die. Over at IEEE Spectrum, Ivan Ackerman writes about the […]
Earlier this month, I was in Washington DC during the Smithsonian’s festivities around the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first human moon landing. As you likely saw, UK-based creative studio 59 Productions and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum collaborated on an astonishing audiovisual experience centered around a lifesize Saturn V rocket […]
Want to keep the dentist away? A little tooth care at morning and night isn’t bad, but it won’t keep the stains from smoking or fried foods at bay for long. If you enjoy your food and want to avoid the consequences, an upgrade from that old analog toothbrush can make a huge difference. Among […]
If your office works at all, it uses Microsoft Office. Those icons for Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook are as familiar around some workplaces as the coffee machine. So familiar, in fact, that they get taken for granted – and rarely used to their full potential. Whether you need a crash course in the essential tools […]
It’s a great time to be a maker. 3D printers are on store shelves for anyone to buy, and coder kits like Arduino and Raspberry Pi are letting kids as young as 9 or 10 dive into the Internet of Things. Here are a few examples of our favorite tech toys, all priced low enough […]