What if your computer could self-heal? A new study has found that with the help of nanomotors, electronics could be able to fix themselves. Scientists turned to the body’s immune system for inspiration and have now built self-propelled nanomotors that can seek out and repair tiny scratches to electronic systems. They could one day lead to flexible batteries, electrodes, solar cells and other gadgets that heal themselves.
Researcher Jinxing Li from the University of California said that electronic circuits are very sophisticated these days, but a crack, even an extremely small one, can interrupt the flow of current and eventually lead to the failure of a device. Traditional electronics can be fixed with soldering, but repairing advanced electronics on a nanoscale requires innovation. Gadgets will soon be more ubiquitous than ever, appearing in our clothes, implants and accessories, said Li. But finding ways to fix nanocircuits, battery electrodes or other electronic components when they break remains a challenge.
The team designed and built nanoparticles out of gold and platinum that are powered by hydrogen peroxide. The platinum spurs the fuel to break down into water and oxygen, which propels the particles. Testing showed that the nanomotors zoomed over the surface of a broken electronic circuit connected to a light-emitting diode, or LED. When they approached the scratch, they got lodged in it and bridged the gap between the two sides. Because the particles are made of conductive metals, they allowed current to flow again, and the LED lit up.
Li said the nanomotors would be ideal for hard-to-repair electronic components such as the conductive layer of solar cells, which are subject to harsh environmental conditions and prone to scratching. They could also be used to heal flexible sensors and batteries, which the Wang lab is also developing. Additionally, the same concept with different materials and fuels could be used in medical applications for delivering drugs to specific locations. The lab is also developing new nanomotors that could potentially be deployed in the body to treat different diseases, such as stomach infections.
The study is presented at American Chemical Society 251st National Meeting & Exposition.