Physicists from Leiden University have created a 3D-printed miniature version of an Intrepid-class starship from Star Trek (via PC Gamer). The idea of a tiny starship is something that you might not have considered outside of the plot of a Star Trek episode, but this microscopic structure is actually part of a larger research experiment the physicists published.
The ship, nearly 15 microns in size, like the USS Voyager- was microprinted by the physicists for their microswimmer research. Unlike the impulse engines and warp drive of its TV counterpart, it propelled through liquid with chemical reactions between the platinum coating and the hydrogen peroxide solution that it was placed in. These studies generally use sphere-shaped models for tests.
Microswimmers are a broad scientific category used to categorise objects and organisms that propel through liquids. Bacteria or your WBCs could be called microswimmers, but so are synthetic objects created for study.
Studying the propulsion of synthetic microswimmers is supposed to provide insights into their natural counterparts. However, futurists have also imagined possible futures where these could be part of targeted delivery systems for drug treatments and other therapies. 3D-microprinted models could be useful for further experiments. The unusual shapes might offer the ability to get more designed types of movement out of microswimmers than traditional spheres and cylinders do.
It’s really great to imagine tiny spaceships and boats traveling across your body like something out of Innerspace or Osmosis Jones. The scientists might not have been able to explicitly say that in their study but definitely they were thinking about it too.
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