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July 16th, 2007
Microscopic polystyrene balls - now jet-propelled
A collaboration of British and Iranian physicists has created an armada of self-propelled polystyrene balls about as wide as a strand of your hair. Their efforts are moving toward self-propelled nanoswimmers that could navigate narrow channels such as the human circulatory system.
The researchers, led by Ramin Golestanian of the University of Sheffield, coated one side of each polystyrene ball with a thin layer of platinum before dropping them into a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. This metal catalyzes a reaction in which hydrogen peroxide breaks into oxygen and water. Because the reaction spits out three molecules for every two that it consumes, the polystyrene ball is pushed from the platinum side.
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