Cornell University researchers have developed microscopic robots that measure 5-microns thick, 40-microns wide, 40-70 microns long, and are laser-activated. The brain as well as bodies are essentially a simple silicon photovoltaic circuit used to power their legs, which are made from electrochemical actuators and strips of platinum. When it comes time to move, lasers are fired onto the body’s photovoltaics, sending a positive electric charge streaming into the platinum. Read more for a video and additional information.
The absorption of the electric charge results in the platinum leg bending, while also not breaking under the stress of this repeated action. For continued movement, photovoltaics are blasted in its body with laser pulses. A separate circuit is targeted by each of these pulses, thus controlling a separate set of legs. It is hoped that one day these tiny robots can be used to navigate bodily fluids, clearing plaque in blood vessels and then repairing them.
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Controlling a tiny robot is maybe as close as you can come to shrinking yourself down. I think machines like these are going to take us into all kinds of amazing worlds that are too small to see,” said Marc Miskin, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.