Tiny Tentacles: Photo Reveals Amazing Catch-and-Release Nanofibers
Self-assembling nanofibers only ~1/1000th the width of a human hair function as catch-and-release devices as seen in this image from Joanna Aizenberg and her laboratory at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. This image was released Oct. 29, 2013.
Credit: Cell Picture Show by Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Do these look like real-life tentacles? Look again.

This seemingly bizarre beast is made of self-assembling nanofibers. Joanna Aizenberg and her laboratory are pioneers of self-assembling nanofibers that function as catch-and-release devices. Here, a scanning-electron microscope image of nanoscale bristles made of epoxy resin and immersed in a liquid. As the bristles dry, they can grab nearby particles, such as the sphere in this image, or a drug. They also store energy and can release the item. That's quite a few functions for something only about 1/1000th the width of a human hair.

The cool contraption is just one example of synthetic biology, a field that works with unnatural molecules and compounds to make tools familiar to natural biology.

ollow us @livescienceFacebook Google+.