Maastricht Economic and social Research and  training centre on Innovation and Technology

I&T Weekly holiday break
I&T Weekly is taking a holiday break. We will be back on Friday, January 12, 2018 with a fresh selection of innovation and technology news. On behalf of the entire UNU-MERIT team, we wish our readers an excellent 2018!

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All headlines
  • France announces landmark ban on fossil fuel production
  • Extreme laser bursts may lead to practical nuclear fusion
  • Gene editing staves off deafness in mice
  • Integrated circuits could make quantum computers scalable
  • 'Water cloak' uses electromagnetic waves to eliminate turbulence
  • Cold cigarette lighter will power satellite
  • Cleaning bots can zap bacteria out of water in minutes
    Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany have unveiled spherical microbots capable of propelling themselves through water and killing off bacteria at the same time, potentially giving us a new and effective way of tackling contaminated water supplies.

    Swimming through water infected with E. coli, the new bots were able to kill more than 80% of the bacteria present inside 20 minutes, and because they're magnetic they can be easily pulled from the water too. That is a big advantage over adding cleaning chemicals to water, chemicals which stick around after use and may not be very effective.

    The bots are divided in two - one half is made of magnesium, which creates hydrogen bubbles in water and acts as a propulsion system. The other half is made of alternating iron and gold layers topped off with silver nanoparticles, and acts as the bacteria-blasting part of the mini machine. The iron and gold layers trap the target bacteria, and the nanoparticles kill them off.

    It's the iron that enables magnets to draw out the microbots after they've done their cleaning duties, along with the trapped, dead bacteria, because you don't really want to be drinking or swimming around in water that's packed with microbots. The more bots that get added, the more effective the cleaning is likely to be.

    Science Alert / ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces    June 30, 2017