Aerosol sprayers. / Photo by: sik-life via Pixabay


Aerosols have been classified as substances harmful to the environment, particularly the ozone layer. But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a method to make aerosols beneficial.

The scientists used nanotechnology to develop a new aerosol that is good for the environment and people. The spray they created has nanobots or tiny sensors that can do just about anything. Every sensor has two parts – a colloid and a circuit.

The colloids are small and could remain suspended in the air or liquid indefinitely. This indefinite duration of the suspension stems from the strong force from the colliding particles compared with the pull of the gravity. The colloids have been used as a substrate as well.

Meanwhile, the circuit holds a chemical detector made of a two-dimensional material. When the detector makes contact with a specific chemical in the air, its conductivity increases. Additionally, the circuit contains a device that converts ambient light into electric current, called a photodiode. The photodiode serves as the power source of the circuit.

“[The circuits] can’t exist without a substrate. We need to graft them to the particles to give them mechanical rigidity and to make them large enough to get entrained in the flow,” said Michael Strano, the lead author of the study.

The scientists grafted the circuits onto the colloids. The properties in the circuits permitted the colloids to travel in different environments. After combining the nanobots, the team aerosolized them to turn the bots into a sprayable form.

There are potential applications of the aerosolized nanobots. For instance, it can be applied in detecting toxic chemicals like ammonia in pipelines. An inspection team can spray the sensors to one side of a pipe and gather them at the other end. They can analyze the sensors to determine what kind of chemicals are caught, without exposing any member of the team to hazards.