“Microrocket” Powered By Stomach Acid

In short

Well, we’re all technology fans here, so why not?

Researchers at University of California, San Diego have developed a propulsion system for navigation of small capsules through highly acidic environments without requiring any internal power source.

The scientists foresee the swallowable devices powered by the zinc-based motor used for drug delivery and for sensing the internal environment for medical applications.

Background

We’ve considered self-orientating mini cameras on this site before, powered by external targeted MRI beams, but this is new idea has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and has the immediate wow factor of being not only self-propelled, but also a “rocket”.

According to the published abstract: Tubular polyaniline (PANI)/Zn microrockets are described that display effective autonomous motion in extreme acidic environments, without any additional chemical fuel.

Do you really want to know how it works?

These acid-driven hydrogen-bubble-propelled microrockets have been electrosynthesized using a conical polycarbonate template. The effective propulsion in acidic media reflects the continuous thrust of hydrogen bubbles generated by the spontaneous redox reaction occurring at the inner Zn surface.

Apparently the little device can move as quickly as 100 (of its) body lengths per second, although quite how that might translate into a drive mechanism for some form of endoscopic camera is questionable.

And what happens to the bubbles? Don’t ask.

According to the abstract such acid-driven microtubular rockets offer considerable potential for diverse biomedical and industrial applications.

Source: American Chemical Society