(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at Cornell University have developed an autonomous microrobot smaller than the head of an ant. It is equipped with an electronic brain and can be recharged by solar energy.
Scientists believe that the main applications of such microrobots can be the delivery of drugs to the tissues of the body and the purification of the environment from pollution.
One such microrobot can do little. But they can be done a lot and taught to communicate with each other
Cornell University researchers have installed electronic “brains” on solar-powered robots ranging in size from 100 to 250 micrometers (smaller than an ant’s head). Microrobots can move without external control. They have their own head on their shoulders.
Today, many microscopic machines have already been developed that can crawl, swim and walk. But until now, all such devices worked under external control and were recharged by wires. Most often, either an external magnetic field or a laser beam was used for control .
Physics professor Itai Cohen says : “Now that we have the brains on board, it’s like we’ve unhooked the string from the puppet. Pinocchio regains consciousness.
The development lays the groundwork for a whole generation of microscopic devices that can track bacteria, sniff out chemicals, destroy pollutants, perform microsurgery and even clean plaque from arteries.
“Brains” on board
The “brain” of the new robots contains a CMOS (chip) on a thousand transistors. CMOS generates a signal that creates a series of phase-shifted square waves.
These waves define the robot’s gait. The robot’s legs are platinum-based actuators. Both the microcircuit and the legs are powered by photovoltaics (they can be recharged, for example, with sunlight).
“The ability to transmit commands will allow us to give the robot instructions, and the inner brain will decide how to execute them,” says Cohen.
“We can talk to the robot. He can tell a lot of useful information about his surroundings. We, in turn, can tell him: “Okay, go there and try to find out what is happening.”
The new robots are about 10,000 times smaller than conventional macro robots with built-in CMOS electronics, and they can move at speeds in excess of 10 micrometers per second.
Scientists believe that the production process they have developed to create a microrobot is very promising.
“We can imagine really complex, highly functional microscopic robots with a high degree of programmability, integrated not only with actuators, but also with sensors,” says lead author Michael Reynolds.
“We are seeing applications in medicine – a microrobot that could move through tissues and kill bad cells. Such a device is also needed for the restoration of the environment. For example, a robot that knows how to look for and break down pollutants.”
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