PULLING MY LEGS. When bacteria crawl clockwise in the circular groove underlying this motor, they brush past the tabs that support the motor’s star-shaped rotor. Molecular bonds between the microbes and a coating on the rotor tug the device around.
For millennia, people have hitched beasts to plows to exploit the animals’ strength and energy. In a modern variant of that practice, scientists have chemically harnessed bacteria to a micromotor so that they can make the device’s rotor slowly turn.
The new work might lead to improved lab-on-a-chip devices and engines to propel microrobots, says Yuichi Hiratsuka, now of the University of Tokyo, who codeveloped the bacteria-powered micromotor. He and his colleagues describe the research in an upcoming Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences.