Researchers in Switzerland have developed a bird-shaped micromachine that can perform various tasks and could be used for medical operations.
The tiny origami-like robot was assembled by researchers at the Swiss federal institutes ETH Zurich and Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). The microrobot is made up of nanomagnets that are magnetically programmed and controlled through magnetic fields.
The bird constructed from this material could perform movements such as flapping, hovering, turning or side-slipping.
"The movements performed by the microrobot take place within milliseconds", says Laura Heyderman, head of the Laboratory for Multiscale Materials Experiments at PSI and professor for Mesoscopic Systems at the Department of Materials, ETH Zurich.
Reprogrammed in a split second
The tiny robot measures only a few tens of micrometres across and could be used to perform small operations on the human body. The nanomagnets can be reprogrammed to produce new movements within nanoseconds.
This novel concept is an important step towards micro- and nanorobots that not only store information to give a particular action, but also can be reprogrammed to perform different tasks.
"It is conceivable that, in the future, an autonomous micromachine will navigate through human blood vessels and perform biomedical tasks such as killing cancer cells", explains Bradley Nelson, head of Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering at ETH Zurich.
These results were published this week in the scientific journal Nature.