Toward giving artificial cells the ability for sustained movement (w/Video)

Apr 29, 2009
Scientists are reporting development of “self-propelled” oil droplets that run on chemical “fuel.” The development could serve as a blueprint for designing similar locomotion systems in artificial cells. Credit: The American Chemical Society

Scientists in Japan are reporting an advance toward giving artificial cells another hallmark of life -- the ability to tap an energy source and use it to undergo sustained movement. Their study, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, describes the first “self-propelled” oil droplets (used as a model for research on artificial cells) that can run on a chemical “fuel.”

Tadashi Sugawara and Taro Toyota and other colleagues note in the new 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 have never found an ideal method that they can easily control.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Video footage of a self-propelled oil droplet in motion.

The new study describes development of oil droplets equipped with chemical “engines” -- 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 . 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 say that when another droplet comes close the newcomer it is trapped by the trail of wastes released by the first droplet. 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 , the scientists say.

More information: , “Self-Propelled Oil Droplets Consuming “” Surfactant”

Provided by American Chemical Society (news : web)

Explore further: A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Emulsion with a round-trip ticket

Jun 14, 2007

Oil and water are not miscible. However, it is possible to combine both into an emulsion in which they act as a unit—for example, in creams, body lotion, milk, or mayonnaise. In these substances, one of the two liquids ...

Sensing light with 'liquid Lego'

Jun 14, 2007

Scientists at Oxford University and Duke University in the United States have used tiny water droplets to build a unique microscopic light sensor.

Droplets that Roll Uphill

Sep 24, 2007

A recent experiment conducted by physicists at University of Bristol in the United Kingdom has shown that liquid drops can defy gravity. Droplets of liquid on an inclined plate that is shaken up and down can ...

Waste coffee grounds offer new source of biodiesel fuel

Dec 10, 2008

Researchers in Nevada are reporting that waste coffee grounds can provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel for powering cars and trucks. Their study has been published ...

Recommended for you

A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

13 hours ago

Membrane proteins and large protein complexes are notoriously difficult to study with X-ray crystallography, not least because they are often very difficult, if not impossible, to crystallize, but also because ...

Base-pairing protects DNA from UV damage

15 hours ago

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have discovered a further function of the base-pairing that holds the two strands of the DNA double helix together: it plays a crucial role in protecting ...

Smartgels are thicker than water

16 hours ago

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, including cosmetics, medicine, and energy. But the transformation process, called gelation, where manufacturers ...

Separation of para and ortho water

Sep 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Not all water is equal—at least not at the molecular level. There are two versions of the water molecule, para and ortho water, in which the spin states of the hydrogen nuclei are different. ...

User comments : 0