NERD the Cytobot Is A Graphene Clad Bacterium That Can Serve as a Nano-Messenger

Nanobots have been on the researchers’ plate for a while now and there are many different kinds to serve different purposes. Bio-microbots, also known as Cytobots have been conceptualized to help study micro-biological and cellular sciences.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have created NERD – Nano-Electro-Robotic Device – under the same concept. Their concept: clad a living cell in graphene so it can respond electrically to changes in its environment. Published in the Nature Scientific Reports, the research is a break through in a variety of sciences.Cytobots 1

NERD has been built on an endospore, which is a dormant bacterium; hence a living cell. These are naturally highly responsive to water, and this property of theirs makes them suitable for micro-mechanical manipulation to achieve bio-actuated mechanisms. What this essentially means is their natural responses can be utilized to function devices, or nano-devices in this case.

“Here we have a biological entity. We’ve made the sensor on the surface of these spores, with the spore a very active complement to this device. The biological complement is actually working towards responding to stimuli and providing information,” says Vikas Berry, associate professor at UIC, principal investigator on the research.

“We’ve taken a spore from a bacteria [sic], and put graphene quantum dots on its surface – and then attached two electrodes on either side of the spore,” said Berry. “Then we change the humidity around the spore. When the humidity drops, the spore shrinks as water is pushed out. As it shrinks, the quantum dots come closer together, increasing their conductivity, as measured by the electrodes. We get a very clean response – a very sharp change the moment we change humidity.” – making the endospore an minuscule electro-biomechanical humidity sensor.cytobot

And not just that – the results came in 10 times faster than artificial humidity sensors. The researchers observed that the cytobot showed better sensitivity in low-pressure and low-humidity environments as compared to the artificial sensors.

This research signifies use of micro-organisms for micro-mechanical actuation and can find use in microbotics, cellular control, biochemical analysis, targeted molecular detection, and biological monitoring.

Picture Source: Nature Scientific Reports

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