Microrobots to the Rescue

It is almost impossible for human hands to maneuver in a microscale environment. But now a very small robot, developed by scientists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, may be available to accomplish these tasks. The MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) robot is less than one-fourth the size of a penny. This microrobot can place tiny objects with great precision and moves by levitation!

The MEMS robot is magnetized. Working within a magnetic field, this microrobot is made to follow a magnetic focal point. Researchers can alter the flow of current in the magnetic field, moving the focal point, and thus moving the microrobot. Grippers attached to the microrobot are remotely controlled by a laser beam. When the laser is turned on and aimed at the grippers, the laser heats the grippers, making them open. When the laser is turned off, the grippers cool and close.

Because this microrobot moves within a magnetic field, it can float in the air, or levitate. This technology allows the microrobot to be positioned near hazardous or toxic surfaces without making contact. It can also avoid contamination in especially sensitive environments such as sterilized rooms, making it suitable for use in medical applications such as micro-surgery.

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