European team make nanoactuator

A UK/France/Italy/Netherlands/Czech team have announced the building of a new nanosensor/switch/actuator. As described by CORDIS (Source: Foresight News Digest):

“The motor is attached to the [DNA] strand at the specific sequence of bases. Then the team introduces ATP, the phosphate molecule that provides energy within living cells, into the microfluidics channel. This is the fuel for the motor. The motor then pulls the upright DNA strand through it until it reaches the magnetic bead, like a winch lowering a weather balloon.

“A Hall-Effect sensor can measure the vertical movement of the magnetic bead which indicates whether the switch is on or off. That, in an over-simplified nutshell, is the essence of the molecular switch, an actuator for the nano-scale world.

“This is particularly important because a nano-scale actuator will be immensely useful. An actuator is a mechanism that supplies and transmits a measured amount of energy for the operation of another mechanism or system. It can be a simple mechanical device, converting various forms of energy to rotating or linear mechanical energy. Or it can convert mechanical action into an electrical signal. It works both ways.”

Check out the Mol-Switch project website for a different view: “The main objective of this proposal is to produce a nano-actuator, based on a biological molecular motor that moves DNA, fuelled by ATP, which is able to detect the movement of biocompatible magnetic nano-particles attached to the DNA. This will allow the development on an integrated system that could be used for single-molecule DNA sequencing” (as well as other applications).

Clearly this project needs a video clip. —Christine

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