A Tiny Motor with a Light Touch

By Fenella Saunders|Tuesday, May 01, 2001

Pál Ormos and Péter Galajda, biophysicists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, have devised an elegant way to construct microscopic machines that are both created and operated by light.

The researchers illuminate a sample of resin with a laser that hardens the material wherever it hits, forming it into a set of gears each less than 1/5,000 inch wide. When illuminated with another, lower-energy laser, the rotors spin up to 600 rpm as photons scatter off their flanges. Related devices could punch holes in cells for gene therapy or pump materials across miniature chemical arrays. Such arrays are aiding the study of DNA and the design of new drugs.

Courtesy of the Institute of Biophysics, Biological Research Centre

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