Home  >>  Write  >>  Technology  >>  Nanotechnology  >>  Applications  >>  Medicine  >>  Nanoscale ATP Motors


Nanoscale ATP Motors

One longtime hope of biotechnology researchers has been to find a way to power devices embedded into the body.  Recent advances in nanotechnology have given this quest new energy.

Dr. Carlo Montemagno developed the world's first nanoscale device powered solely by the body's own energy source: Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).  This represents a critical step toward realizing small machines that could draw power off the body itself.

By attaching a propeller to a naturally occurring ATP motor found in every living being, Montemagno was able to spin the propeller at 8 RPM.  It's hoped that one day such a motor could power small devices that could be injected into the body to repair organs directly.

Unfortunately, the technique is not without drawbacks.  The average yield of a successful propeller adhesion to the motor was about 5 out of 400, or a yield of 1.3%.  This is nothing close to manufacturing requirements and will remain a matter of academic interest for some time.   Dr. Montemagno was able to create a handful of motors by creating a solution of ATPase (the body's naturally ATP enzyme), glue, and nickel propellers.  Since the entire process was random (and highly unlikely), most propellers never contacted the rotor, while most that touched the rotor never stuck on permanently.

I'd like to quickly mention that these motors were built from ATPase, which is between 150 nm to 750 nm in size.  These are big beasts compared to the structures we have discussed so far, which range from 3-60 nm.  However, it'd be nearly impossible right now to build a protein like ATPase, we just don't know enough about how it works and folds. 

Despite the fact that the motors were extremely limited in scope, they are an adequate proof of concept that we can engineer devices straight from the molecular machinery found within the body.  Perhaps one day we can learn to harness the full power of all the different tools, pumps, and power plants inside every human being.  From there, if our knowledge is complete, then one day we will be able to build our own proteins to do exactly as we desire!