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LT-NRBS Report Summary

Project ID: 311529
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Spain

Final Report Summary - LT-NRBS (Lab-in-a-tube and Nanorobotic biosensors)

The “Lab-in-a-tube and Nanorobotic Biosensors” project contained two distinct parts, which could be defined as “cells in a tube” and “tubes into cells”. In the first part, we developed the “Lab-in-a-tube” concept for bio-related applications, comprising cell division and migration, and the sensing of cells in microfluidics devices. Thin membranes rolled-up into glass microtubular structures, mimicking the capillaries found in our body and allocate different types of cells for studying their behavior such as cancer metastasis and cell division in constrained environments. The rolled-up nanotech allowed us to integrate electrodes and use the microtubes as ultracompact sensors for the detection of single cells flowing through the transparent microchannel.

When microtubes contained catalytic material as inner layer and were released in chemical fluids, they performed a chemical reaction in their interior which generated a propulsion force that pushed them forward as active microswimmers. In this project, we developed methods to control the motion of chemical microswimmers, the transport of objects, drilling into tissues and cleaning of pollutants. We based our investigations in three directions: (i) fundamental aspects of microswimmers, (ii) nanoswimmers towards biomedical applications and (iii) nanoswimmers for environmental applications.
We went beyond rolled-up tubular structures and spanned to electrodeposited microtubes, spherical micro- and nano-particles which provided a toolbox of architectures for microswimmers (or micromotors) allowing us a versatile range of applications. For instance, mesoporous silica nanoparticles may be suitable for biomedical applications as they are biocompatible and can load drugs in their interior. Larger microstructures, containing catalytic and photocatalytic material, with properties such as upscalability and cost reduction are suitable for cleaning polluted water. A step forward biocompatibility was achieved by using enzymes -instead of traditional inorganic catalysts- as engines for the propulsion of nanomotors, generating hybrid nanomotors. With enzymes as catalysts, glucose and urea are employed as bio-available fuels. Another type of hybrid motors (or hybrid microrobots) was engineered by combining nano- and microstructures with motile cells like sperms and bacteria. Those hybrid robots can transport drugs in a controlled manner to specific locations.

As results, the project lead to more than 60 publications, more than 90 talks, 3 awards, 2 patents and 2 PoC grants. Moreover the project attracted the attention of the media and Samuel has been interviewed in several national and international newspapers and TV news/programs.

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