Nanotubes contribute to another breakthrough.

Will the wonders of carbon nanotubes never cease? Engineers have now used everyone’s favorite cylindrical übermolecules to create artificial muscles that can contract and twist, in a manner not unlike like the muscles found in elephant trunks and squid tentacles. The upshot? Researchers say these tiny little motors could soon be used to propel microscopic nanobots throughout your bloodstream.

In nanoscale engineering, the term “artificial muscle” is used to refer to materials that can change their shape in response to stimuli. The mechanical movements created by these muscles have potential applications in everything from cancer therapies to portable electronics…

But scaling down motors into tiny little machines isn’t easy; as motors decrease in size, their power output relative to their mass often shrinks as well. Now, an international team of scientists led by UT Dallas engineer Ray Baughman appears to have found a way to circumvent this problem.

“Our new type of artificial muscle produces a rotating action 1,000 times larger than previously known [artificial muscle] systems,” explains University of Wollongong researcher Geoff Spinks, co-first author on the research paper describing the team’s creation, which is published in the latest issue of Science. He continues:

We believe that, with further improvements in performance, it may be possible to propel a micro or nano-bot with these fascinating materials.

Which means they could be coming to a vein near you some time soon.

[Science (doi: 10.1126/science.1211220) via BBCABC ScienceThe Conversation]