First, some background info on micro/nano scale, since we’ll be talking about microcannons and nanobullets.
1 meter = 1,000,000 micrometers
1 meter = 1,000,000,000 nanomaters
Microcannon = 5 micrometers = the thickness of a strand of spider silk OR the thickness of the head of a human sperm = even smaller than the thickness of a human hair
Nanobullet = 100 nanometers = 1 micrometer = slightly smaller than the HIV virus
- For a long time, researchers have wanted to create a real live “magic bullet” that would be able shoot through tissue to deliver drugs to treat diseases.
- Not only did a “magic bullet” not exist, but there was also no way to shoot a “magic bullet” even if it was real.
- In order to deliver drugs to diseased tissue, a “magic bullet” would have to be very small (think micro/nano scale).
- Scientists started by making a membrane with tiny holes in it (think of your skin as the membrane and your pores as the holes).
- They electrodeposited or “sprayed” graphene oxide and then gold to coat the inside of the membrane holes.
- The graphene oxide and gold hardened to form “microcannons”.
- They then “loaded” the microcannons with silica nanobullets and a chemical (perfluorocarbon) to act as a propellant (think of the perfluorocarbon as the gunpowder in a pirate-sized cannon).
- The scientists used ultrasonic waves (high frequency sound waves) to vaporize the perfluorocarbon.
- As the perfluorocarbon was vaporizing, it made tiny gas bubbles that got larger very very quickly.
- These fast-expanding bubbles were what pushed the nanobullets out of the microcannon, while the scientists all stood around going “pew pew pew!”.*
- They took video, as well as images using a scanning electron microscope to see that the microcannons were working.
- As a control for their experiment (what they compared it to), they tried firing the nanobullets without using the perfluorocarbon propellant.
- This time, it did not work and no tiny bullets went flying. This reassured them that the perfluorocarbon was what caused the nanobullets shoot out of the microcannons.
- Because the scientists wanted to show that the microcannons and nanobullets could be used to shoot through human tissue, they tried shooting fluorescent nanobullets into artificial tissue.
- They showed that it worked, high-fived each other, and then proceeded to have the world’s tiniest paint ball war in their lab.**
- This research could lead the way for actually using microcannons to fire nanobullets made of life-saving drugs into diseased human tissue.
- This would be an effective and efficient way to treat diseases.
- Science is just now catching up with the 1966 movie The Fantastic Voyage
- Science is freaking awesome.
- We should all be scientists so we can play with microcannons.
- The next logical step is to create micropirates. For micro sea battles using microcannons that fire nanobullets. You’re welcome for the awesome idea, scientists.
*Ok, they probably didn’t really make that noise, but I totally would if it had been me…
**Ok, again, totally just kidding. But in my dreams, this is what happens.
Arrrrrr you as excited about nanotechnology as I am? Plunge into the depths of science and plunder ye old original scientific journal article here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsnano.5b07080
Citations for micro- and nano-scale comparisons:
Here’s to fun, funny, and science-filled 2016! See you next year ;).