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Swimming microbots can remove pathogenic bacteria from water

Drinking water contaminated with pathogenic bacteria can cause serious illnesses that, in areas with spotty medical services, are potentially life-threatening without proper treatment. Water can be disinfected with chlorine or other disinfectants, but there are some hardy bacteria and other microorganisms that are hard to remove. Treating water with a combination of disinfectants or increasing their concentrations can help. But they remain in the water, and their byproducts can be harmful to human health. In recent years, researchers have been exploring the use of self-propelled micromotors to degrade and capture pollutants in water. Building on this work, Diana Vilela, Samuel Sánchez Ordóñez and colleagues wanted to see if they could engineer tiny robots to remove waterborne bacteria.

Photo: Microbots zoom around water, destroying bacteria (credit: American Chemical Society)

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