Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Official blog of the Lehigh University Chemical Engineers

Tiny Gold Motors You Can Drive Inside Cells

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I read an interesting article about a new technology that could drastically change medicine delivery. The possible applications of this new idea are endless and could realistically be used to kill troublesome cells, like cancer cells. Here is the article link and video:

In essence, the scientists built tiny motors that are partly made out of gold. The motors are surrounded by human cells and the motors drive the cells around. This is the first time that a team has successfully implants nano-motors into cells and driven them around. The research is in its very early stages of research but engineers hope that the motors can be used to deliver medicines to cells in the body. For their experiment, the team actually implanted the motors into human cancer cells that they preserved in the lab. This demonstrates the very real possibility that this research could be used to treat cancer patients.

The motors are a little less than 10 micrometers long and appear like sprinkles. To the surprise of the researchers, when the motors were added to the cells, the cells actually took the motors into their interiors. The researchers then used ultrasound waves to make the motors move. The direction of the movement couldn’t really be controlled and the motors seemed to bump around in the cells. The researchers theorized that the motors were running into organelles in the cells. Organelles are the components that make up a cell such as mitochondria or endoplasmic reticulum.

I thought the most astounding part about the research was that it is the first time this has ever been done. These gold mechanisms are the only drivable, cell-sized motors in the world. Aside from controlling the motors only with ultrasound waves, researchers have also considered looking into using chemical reactions that are readily available in the human body. These simple reactions that occur in blood or stomach acid would be much easier to use to control the motors. This research is incredibly interesting and could very well make it easier to treat diseases. I look forward to seeing what other advancements scientists make and if they can master driving the motors within the cells.



Author: Ben Dunmire

I am a sophomore Chemical Engineering major at Lehigh. On campus, I am the president of Club Baseball and a member of AIChE and NSCS. Outside of school, I enjoy the outdoors, fishing, and any type of athletic activity. You can reach me at

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