This laser-powered robot is surprisingly small. What can it be used for?

Semiconductors are not the only silicon technologies that compete with Moore's Law. Now we see a new challenge.

Researchers at Cornell University have revealed a mini robot that is clever enough to penetrate almost anywhere in the human body and cheap enough to occur on a large scale.

The project is the creation of Cornell physics professor Itai Cohen, Paul McEuen, professor of physical sciences, and Marc Miskin, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. This is not Cohen's first microscopic robot.

This work builds on his previous efforts on origami-inspired micro-machines and manages to overcome a significant hurdle: the lack of a drive element. at the micro scale that integrates perfectly with semiconductor processing and responds to standard electronic control signals, according to the team's study published in Nature.

The robots are only 5 microns thick (one micron is equal to one thousandth of a millimeter), 40 microns wide and between 40 and 70 microns high, and Depending on the design. The “brain” and the body consist of a silicon photovoltaic circuit, while the legs are made of a quartet of electrochemical actuators.

“In the context of the robot's brains, there is a sense that we are only taking existing semiconductor technology and making it small and downloadable,” McEuen told Cornell News. â € œBut the legs didnâ € TMt exist before. There were no small actuators that could be used electrically. And we had to invent them and then combine them with electronics, 'he explained.

Thus, the legs are layered with thick strips of platinum atom with a titanium “cap” covering one end. When platinum is exposed to an electric charge, negatively charged ions from the surrounding chemical solution are absorbed on the platinum surface to neutralize the charge.

This absorption causes the platinum foot to bend, although it is thin enough not to break under the pressure of repeated bending. To encourage the robot to move effectively, the team harnesses the photovoltaic force in its body with laser pulses. Each set of pulses targets a separate circuit which in turn controls a separate set of legs.

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