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Scientists Have Created 3-D Printed Star-Trek’s 'USS Voyager' That Moves on Its Own

The Star-Trek spaceship USS Voyager.

The Star-Trek spaceship USS Voyager.

A micro-swimmer shaped like the famous science-fiction show’s central ship has been created by researchers at Leiden University to create a better understanding of how shape influences the movement of a micro-swimmer.

The Star-Trek ship, USS Voyager, is now a reality and helping scientists learn about micro-swimmers. But it’s not exactly a spaceship, but an artificial micro-swimmer.

A micro-swimmer shaped like the famous science-fiction show’s central ship has been created by researchers at Leiden University to create a better understanding of how shape influences the movement of a micro-swimmer.

A miniature voyager measuring about 15 micrometres long was built as a part of a study aimed at understanding how shape affects the movement and interactions of micro-swimmers. For reference, the width of a hair can be anywhere between 17-150 micrometres, so this ship is really tiny. Artificial Micro-swimmers are bacterial sized colloidal particles that can move around independently in liquid mediums.

They mostly propel via chemical interaction with their surrounding matter. These micro-floats come with a platinum coating, which when placed in hydrogen peroxide solution, react and propel forward like a moving organism.

One of the study’s authors, Samia Ouhajji, told CNN that by studying synthetic micro-swimmers, they can understand how biological micro-swimmers work. “This understanding could be helpful in developing new drug delivery vehicles, such as microrobots that swim autonomously and deliver drugs to the desired location in the human body,” she said.

Artificial micro-swimmers can be created in any shape using 3-D printers. Boats and spaceships are the most common. By printing a number of shapes, they can understand how each shape affects the mobility of these floating particles.

Star Trek fans will be excited to know USS Voyager now exists outside their fiction (in a way if not exactly). The co-author Jonas Hoecht is himself a Star-Trek fan and wanted to show that the possibility of printing various micro-swimmer shapes is virtually unlimited.

The physicists involved with the project are not just science-fiction fans but involved in very real science. To have a comprehensive study, shapes like trimers, helices, various boats, etc were also printed to study the shape’s influence on their movement, speed and so on.

The potential for micro-swimmers is mostly in the field of biomedical research. They can additionally be used to purify wastewater by in-situ filtration, help deliver targeted drugs inside the body and help battle complex diseases, etc.

They can also be helpful in learning more about how biological micro-swimmers, like bacteria and sperm, move in the body.


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