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Launching Microrockets to Detect Cancer, DNA, RNA

The video is striking: a nano-scale rocket barrels through a solution placed on a chip, and binds onto a cancer cell. Work on the rockets earned graduate student Dan Kagan the best NanoEngineering poster award at the expo.

Kagan, who works with Professor Joseph Wang, showcased two breakthroughs. He exploited a relationship between a solution's silver ion concentration and the speed of gold and platinum nanowires, which was used for sensing nucleic acids. He also found a way to make binding to biological targets, such as DNA and RNA, more effective by using microrockets propelled by oxygen bubbles.

Both breakthroughs allow scientists to look for and isolate cancer cells, DNA and RNA much faster in raw solutions. The motors and rockets also are fairly cheap to manufacture - and their motion is visible with a strong magnifying glass. "All you need to do is have commercial chips, and within an hour you'll have your results," Kagan said.

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