Cornell Smart Microbots Autonomous
Cornell University researchers have developed smart microbots that are smaller than an anti’s head, yet capable of walking autonomously. This lays the groundwork necessary to create microscopic devices that can track bacteria, detect chemicals, destroy pollutants, conduct microsurgery and even scrub the plaque from arteries.

Each one has a “brain” made from a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) clock circuit containing a thousand transistors, along with an array of diodes, resistors and capacitors. This integrated CMOS circuit is used to generate a signal that produces a series of phase-shifted square wave frequencies to set the gait of the robot, while its legs are platinum-based actuators. Both the circuit and the legs are powered by photovoltaics designed to be very low power. Yes, these microbots are much smaller than this DeLorean DMC-12 made from a lighter.

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Before, we literally had to manipulate these ‘strings’ in order to get any kind of response from the robot. But now that we have these brains on board, it’s like taking the strings off the marionette. It’s like when Pinocchio gains consciousness,” said Itai Cohen, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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