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Physicists Take First Step Toward Cell-Sized Robots


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An artist's conception of a microscale robots in the bloodstream.

Cornell University researchers say they have developed a microscale robot exoskeleton that could become a platform for robots the size of biological microorganisms.

Credit: Shutterstock

Researchers at Cornell University say they have developed a microscale robot exoskeleton that can quickly change its shape upon sensing chemical or thermal changes in the surrounding environment.

The machines also are equipped with electronic, photonic, and chemical payloads, and they could become a platform for robots the size of biological microorganisms. "You could put the computational power of the spaceship Voyager onto an object the size of a cell," says Cornell's Itai Cohen.

The tiny robots move using a motor called a bimorph comprised of graphene and glass, which bends when driven by a stimulus such as heat, a chemical reaction, or an applied voltage.

The researchers say a biomorph is built using atomic layer deposition, and then wet-transferring a single atomic layer of graphene on top of the stack.

Cornell's Paul McEuen says the next step is to attempt to develop small-scale muscles for the microscopic robotic exoskeletons.

From Cornell Chronicle
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