Oxford research could lead to biological motors

1 min read

A new biological approach for power generation of extremely small mechanical components is being investigated by a UK and European consortium.

The Nanocell group, which is being funded under a part of the European Science Foundation’s European Collaborative Research Scheme, believes such biological means for power generation will help advance the science of bio-nanotechnology – a wide ranging field with applications including molecular machines, biosensors and self-assembled nanostructures.

Dr Richard M. Berry from the University of Oxford will work with project leader Professor Daniel Müller of the University of Technology Dresden and a host of other partners to develop components such as microscopic propellers, which will be driven by biological rotary motors that would allow components of tiny biochemical factories to move under their own power.

Nanocell is one of four bio-nanotechnology related projects that have achieved a total of £1.5M in grants.

A main focus for the project will be developing a suitable membrane to surround the components of their nanocells.

An interesting choice being investigated by the team is a membrane that contains the naturally occurring F1 and F0 motors of the ATP-Synthase.

The team describe F1 and F0 as two biological rotary motors connected in opposition. While the F0 is powered by the electric current of positive ions that flow across the cell membrane, the F1 runs on ATP, a high-energy molecule that is the ‘energy currency’ of living things. In ATP-synthase F0 drives F1 in reverse, causing it to generate ATP

At the end of the project, the researchers hope to demonstrate the use of one or both of the motors to drive a propeller that will allow nanocells to move under their own power.