If the thought of little spiders crawling on your skin makes you jittery then it may be a good idea to stop reading here.
A team of researchers of Pennsylvania State University have created minute self-directing spider like machines which they hope could be used in medicine.
The machines are tiny spheres (less than a micrometer wide) which are made from two hemispheres – one made of gold and the other of silica.
Using a Grubbs catalyst attached to the silica side and a chemical called norbornene the group were able to cause the sphere to spin polymers of the chemical at the catalysed side and thereby exploit osmotic potentials in order to propel the sphere along.
Direction of movement was achieved by soaking lumps of a gel in norbornene and placing them in tanks of solvent, the spheres would follow the trail of the chemical all the way to the source.
The next challenge for the researchers is to create a version of the spider which will run off chemicals found in the body.
The vision for the future is to attach nanobots to the spiders which seek out chemical markers secreted by damaged tissue. The spider would then swim through the bloodstream and weave a gluey mesh to repair the damage.
Reference: Angewandte Chemie, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201103565