This Microscopic Single-Celled Protozoan May be The World's Fastest Creature

Scientists at Georgia Tech are busy studying this speedy tiny animal in hopes of producing solutions for future applications in small robots.
Loukia Papadopoulos

When you think of the fastest creatures on earth, a single-celled protozoan is not likely to come to mind. And yet according to Georgia Institute of Technology assistant professor Saad Bhamla one such microscopic animal called the Spirostomum ambiguum belongs on that list and may even lead it.

This incredible self-shrinking protozoan has been found to achieve blazing-fast acceleration simply by contracting its extremely flexible body when startled. The extraordinarily speedy creature can swiftly go from the shape of a four-millimetre flat ribbon to the that of an American football in mere milliseconds.

Now scientists are scrambling to figure out how it does that, and, in particular, how it does that without harming its fragile internal organs. If uncovered, the answers could lead to incredible advancements in nanotechnology.

Bhamla and his team have begun their exploration using the language of mathematics and physics. “For instance, we want to know what is the fundamental limit for acceleration in a living cell,” he said.

“We want to map out everything this creature is doing and model it in the computer, taking an engineering approach. We want to learn how a single cell achieves such remarkable acceleration and uses molecular springs to amplify its power output.”

If scientists can mimic these qualities, they could produce future tiny robots propelled by mechanical solutions suited to smaller machines. They may also resolve the energy density dilemma currently plaguing smaller robotics projects. 

“As engineers, we like to look at how nature has handled important challenges,” said Bhamla. “We are always thinking about how to make these tiny things that we see zipping around in nature. If we can understand how they work, maybe the information can cross over to fill the gap for small robots that can move fast with little energy use.”

Via: Georgia Tech

This Microscopic Single-Celled Protozoan May be The World's Fastest Creature  



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