Molecular intelligence: The rise of supramolecular nanomachines


Prof Dr Daniela A. Wilson from the Institute for Molecules and Materials (IMM) tells us what we need to know about molecular intelligence – the rise of supramolecular nanomachines with controlled shape and motility

The creation of nano and microscale “man-made” machines as autonomous systems with life-like behaviours with the ability to communicate and exert specific tasks on demand has been one of the most exciting challenges that has fascinated scientists over the centuries.

One of the great challenges of complex life-like molecular systems is to understand and design such autonomous systems that not only can move directionally by harvesting different sources of energy but also can sense, communicate, interact and respond to clues from their environment and adapt to its changes. The response and collective work of these systems in the presence of different stimuli are predicted to produce the next generation of biomedical devices with the potential to lead to more accurate, precise and selective treatments, while at the same time allowing for a better understanding of the communication mechanisms already existing in nature (e.g. cell-to-cell communication, quorum sensing [communication between bacteria]).

During the last decade, many nano and microscale artificial systems have been fabricated with the idea of achieving motion by different stimuli in a controlled way, focusing primarily on the possibility of applying such devices for applications like warfare remediation, quality control of environmental and food resources, drug delivery, among others. Moreover, a major interest has been given to systems that are powered by enzymatic reactions, as these systems can provide better biocompatibility, sensitivity, and specificity.

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