Scientists power artificial cells with non-stop mobility

May 5th, 2009 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 5 (IANS) Scientists are developing artificial cells with the ability to tap an energy source and use it for sustained mobility.
A Japanese study described the first “self-propelled” oil droplets (used as a model for research on artificial cells) that can run on a chemical “fuel”.

Tadashi Sugawara, Taro Toyota and others noted in the study that scientists have tried for years to find a method for producing oil droplets that undergo controlled movement from one point to another.

Despite identifying several promising approaches, researchers never found an ideal method that they can easily control.

However, the new study describes development of oil droplets equipped with chemical “engines” or highly reactive catalysts that provide self-propelled motion in the presence of a chemical “fuel.”

This fuel consists of special substances that react in the presence of the catalyst. When the researchers placed droplets in water containing the fuel, the droplets moved in a controlled fashion toward areas with the highest concentration of fuel.

The researchers also found that when another droplet comes close to the “newcomer”, it is trapped by the trail of wastes released by the first droplet, said a release of the American Chemical Society.

Then the two move together in a “communicative” manner. When the fuel was exhausted, the droplets slowed down and stopped.

The study serves as a long-awaited blueprint for designing similar locomotion systems in artificial cells, the scientists say.

These findings were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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