(CNN) – A team of physicists at a university in the Netherlands 3D printed a microscopic version of the USS Voyager, an Intrepid class star ship from Star Trek.
The miniature Voyager, 15 micrometres (0.015 millimeters) long, is part of a project that researchers at Leiden University work to understand how shape affects the movement and interaction of microwimmers.
Microswimmers are small particles that can move around in liquids by themselves by interacting with their environment through chemical reactions. The platinum coating on the microwimmers reacts with the hydrogen peroxide solution they are placed in and pushes them through the liquid.
Samia Ouhajji, one of the study̵7;s authors, told CNN: “By studying synthetic microwimmers, we want to understand biological microwimmers. “This understanding can aid in the development of new drug delivery vehicles; for example, robots that automatically swim and deliver the drug to the desired location in the human body.”
Using 3D printers, scientists have discovered that they can print any shape of microwimmers, including boats and stellar ships. That helps them determine the effect of each shape on the motion of the particles swimming.
While most people don’t understand what the USS Voyager has to do with science, Jonas Hoecht, one of the study’s co-authors, has its own reasons to recreate the ship.
“On the last week of the project, I promised him that we could print in any shape he liked,” said Ouhajji. “As a big Star Trek fan, he chose the USS Voyager. Also, it proved that the type of print we could print was almost limitless.”
In their project, the physicists also printed out shapes such as boats, triangles, and spirals, with the shape of each object influencing their swimming behavior.
Along with learning how to use microwimmers to purify wastewater or deliver drugs into the body, the experiment will help scientists learn more about biological swimming animals, such as sperm and bacteria, and how they move in the body.
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