When you break the shell of an egg, the result is a single, small shell that sits in a tiny egg sac.
That’s how it works in nature.
But with the advent of nanotechnology, it’s no longer necessary to use shells.
A nanobot can be embedded into an egg and then attached to the surface, making the shell self-aware.
The first nanobots could be implanted into a baby’s shell and would automatically begin repairing its damaged shell.
But researchers at MIT have shown that this can be done with a simple chip and a couple of ingredients.
Using the same process that was used to create nanoscale proteins, they created nanobotic shell-repairing nanobacteria, a class of bacteria that can self-repair even if they aren’t fully mature.
This is important, says co-lead author Dr. Anand Kulkarni, a postdoc at MIT’s Department of Engineering.
“If you can create a new kind of microorganism that’s able to repair the shell, then there’s a huge possibility for us to do this in the future.”
The researchers’ nanobacterial shells are a mixture of carbon nanotubes, a chemical compound that is commonly used in nanoscreens.
When placed into an empty sac of a living egg, nanotube carbon nanofibers dissolve into the sac and the nanobodies begin to grow in the sac.
When a cell divides into more than one egg, it creates a new cell, which becomes the nucleus of a new organism.
Cells need nutrients and oxygen to survive.
Nanotubes provide a solution to this problem.
These nanotubers are naturally occurring and can be found in nature, including in plants.
But the nanotubs also are useful for nanobotics because they can be used to build self-replicating nanobody.
“When we use nanoturbers, they can grow in a small sac and can form the nanodevices that can attach themselves to a surface of an object,” explains Kulkerni.
“They are also self-assembling and self-cleaning, so they can become part of a larger system and repair their own structure.
These self-assembly nanotunnels are particularly good for repair of damaged shells.”
This discovery means the nanotechnology can be applied to all sorts of different objects.
For example, nanobiotics can be made into sensors that are used to detect the presence of foreign substances, such as viruses.
The nanobiotic can also be used in the production of a protein that helps to repair damaged skin.
In one embodiment, the nanomaterials can be combined with other nanobionics, such that they form a new set of nanoscales that can repair skin in a variety of ways.
The researchers say their nanobacterium is the first to self-regulate, which is key for self-healing shells.
“This means the shells of the nanobiobots can respond to different environmental conditions and changes in temperature,” says Kulkorni.
The researchers have already been able to selfrepair damaged shells in an environment similar to a human’s skin, but it will be several years before they can selfrepair fully intact shells in a lab environment.
The study was published in Nature Nanotechnology.
Image credit: R. M. Tung / Shutterstock.