Inspired by the natural processes of self-healing in the human body, a group of researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed nanomotors that can act as a self-healing system for electronics.

Elizabeth Montalbano

March 28, 2016

2 Min Read
Nanomotors Act As Tiny Repair Kits for Self-Healing Electronics

A team led by Joseph Wang, distinguished professor and chair of nanoengineering at the university, used as a model for their research natural microorganisms such as bacteria, Jinxing Li, a PhD student and a member of the research team, told Design News.

Hemostasis, a natural healing process of blood platelets that stops wounds from bleeding, also was a key example that inspired the work, Li said. “The nanomotors are similar to blood platelets for hemostasis in three aspects: they can propel themselves to move and swim; they can find damages and stay [in that location]; and they have the properties to repair the crack and rebuild the function.”

Nanomotors developed by researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) swim and repair cracks in electronic circuits. The team was inspired by natural processes of self-healing in the human body to develop a similar immune system for electronics.
(Source: Jinxing Li, UCSD)

Peroxide fuel powers the nanomotors, which localize at microscale cracks in electronic circuits to restore the connectivity of the device. “Right now we mainly used them to repair electronic circuits,” Li said. “But this engineering concept could be extended to any other mechanical damages.”

In the work researchers are doing, the nanomotors are added to an electronic system only when damage occurs, autonomously searching for and performing repairs without human intervention. However, at some point, they could be integrated within the system to act as an automatic immune system to make repairs when needed.

Researchers will continue to work on the nanomotors, which Li said have biomedical research applications. The team envisions developing medicine nanoshuttles that can find the sites of disease within a human body and administer treatment.

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Looking ahead to commercialization, Li said the nanomotors should be fairly easy and cost-effective to mass produce because they are made from commercial nanoparticles.

Researchers introduced their research -- funded by the US Department of Energy and the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind -- at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano

Elizabeth Montalbano has been a professional journalist covering the telecommunications, technology and business sectors since 1998. Prior to her work at Design News, she has previously written news, features and opinion articles for Phone+, CRN (now ChannelWeb), the IDG News Service, Informationweek and CNNMoney, among other publications. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she also has lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco and New York City. She currently resides in Lagos, Portugal. Montalbano has a bachelor's degree in English/Communications from De Sales University and a master's degree from Arizona State University in creative writing.

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