‘Talking’ nanoparticles could spark new wave of smart devices

(Credit: iStock)

(Credit: iStock)

Scientists have developed ‘talking’ nanoparticles inspired by biology that could revolutionise computing and pave the way for intelligent nanodevices.

Although silicon chips are getting smaller and faster every year, in terms of processing power they still pale in comparison to nature. Living things can communicate masses of information using molecules such as pheromones and neurotransmitters, and scientists have been trying to build a similar system into the new wave of nanomaterials.

Previous efforts have managed one-way communication, but a new study published in the journal Nature Communications describes nanoparticles that can share information in both directions.

Ramon Martinez-Manez and colleagues at the University of Valencia in Spain designed a pair of nanoparticles that can trade messages in a chemical ‘language’. One particle has an enzyme that recognises and transforms a molecule into a signal that can be read by an enzyme on the second particle. “The “message” that is transmitted depends on each specific situation,” Martinez-Manez told Professional Engineering.

“In our case the first chemical messenger “asks” the second nanoparticle if a loaded cargo can be delivered and the second nanoparticle sends a chemical messenger that “says” yes the cargo can be delivered.”

Particles like these could potentially be used for building tiny, intelligent ‘nanodevices’ in future, or for information processing in biological ‘computers’. “If we learn how nanoparticles communicate and behave co-operatively this can help to mimic a number of complex biological behaviours,” said Martinez-Manez.

“This is still very preliminary research,” he continued. “Nevertheless, we believe that the concept of establishing communication between nanodevices has enormous potential for the design of complex nanoscale systems.”

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