Research groups such as Hokkaido University, Kyushu University, Nagoya University, and Kansai University have succeeded in putting micro-sized molecular robots into practice by using them as "flocks".

 Robots that act as a group can have functions that a single robot cannot.The macro-scale group robots developed so far are said to be used for various purposes such as carrying and accumulating luggage and constructing structures.

 On the other hand, robots that have been miniaturized to microscale or nanoscale have not been put into practical use due to their small size.Therefore, in this research, we tried to make a micro-sized molecular robot do an effective work (material transport) by using a group.

 The developed molecular robot is composed of a motor protein (drive system), a DNA molecular computer (control system), and a photochromic dye (sensor system), and can form a group under visible light irradiation and disperse under ultraviolet light irradiation. ..Approximately one million molecular robots were transported with polystyrene beads of various sizes from several micrometers to several tens of micrometers.

 As a result, the molecular robot alone was able to capture and transport beads up to about 3 micrometers, whereas the group of molecular robots was able to transport beads as large as 10 micrometers, which is 30 times that.It was also clarified that the efficiency (transportation distance and transportation volume) of transportation by a group is improved by about 5 times compared to a single unit.Furthermore, by specifying the irradiation position of ultraviolet light, it is possible to collect beads at any place.In this way, it was demonstrated that the use of swarms enables micro-sized molecular robots to perform effective tasks that cannot be performed by themselves.

 Such robots are expected to play an active role in various situations such as medical sites and environmental conservation, such as transporting chemicals and recovering pollutants, and are expected to be applied in the future.

Paper information:[Science Robotics] Cooperative cargo transportation by a swarm of molecular machines

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