We can thank gravity for a lot of things in life, particularly for the rain drops falling downwards. Humans have developed pumps and motors to control the flow of liquids, but we never imagined that liquids would be able to propel itself. Researchers at the Brandeis University, Massachusets have created a liquid that can move on its own, free of gravity by mixing biological molecules with some other substances.
Biological cells possess dynamic properties which when combined in a solution can make the entire liquid to move on its own. The cells are called microtubules, having a hollow center. The cell is dynamically unstable as its ends go through phases of shrinking and growing. The bending and stretching actions of the cell make it dynamic.
The scientists obtained the biological molecules from cow brain and combined them in a watery solution with Kinesin protein, and a nucleotide called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In the reaction that follows, kinesin uses ATP as a fuel and uses this energy to move along the microtubule.
In the solution of cells, ATP, and kinesin, the microtubules arrange themselves in parallel lines. Kinesins connect two adjoining microtubules by attaching itself to the surface. While the protein goes on consuming ATP, it walks along the microtubule, pushing the adjacent one in the opposite direction. This causes the paired tubes to separate. Kinesin molecules go on consuming the ATP and repeat the process, thus creating whirling patterns in the liquid. The researchers managed to control the swirls, so they all moved together in the same direction. The phenomenon is named as “coherent flow.”
The research was published in the journal Science. The researchers say that this is just the first step and we are far from creating a liquid that can flow freely without any mechanical support. The applications of such a substance are significant, particularly in the oil industry where oil can be extracted from underground without the use of pipes and pumps. The team says, “Essentially they harnessed the power of nature to create a microscopic machine capable of pumping fluid.”
The video below shows the movement of microtubules:
This one will help you understand “coherent flow”.