Computer graphic of a microvehicle with iron wheels (gold) and a polymer chassis (red). The vehicle measures just 0.25 millimetres long.
CREDIT : (Visualisations: Alcântara et al. Nature Communications 2020)
Robots so tiny that they can manoeuvre through our blood vessels and deliver medications to certain points in the body – researchers have been pursuing this goal for years.
Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have succeeded for the first time in building such “micromachines” out of metal and plastic, in which these two materials are interlocked as closely as links in a chain. This is possible thanks to a new manufacturing technique they have devised.
“Metals and polymers have different properties, and both materials offer certain advantages in building micromachines. Our goal was to benefit from all these properties simultaneously by combining the two,” explains Carlos Alcântara, formerly a doctoral student in Salvador Pané’s group at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems and one of the two lead authors of the paper. As a rule, micromachines are powered from outside the body using magnetic fields, which means they must have magnetic metal parts installed. Polymers, in contrast, have the advantage that they can be used to construct soft, flexible components as well as parts that dissolve inside the body. If medication is embedded in this kind of soluble polymer, it is possible to selectively supply active substances to certain points in the body.
High-tech production method
Underpinning the new manufacturing method is the expertise of ETH Professor Salvador Pané. For years, he has been working with a high-precision 3D printing technique that produces complex objects on the micrometre level, a technique known as 3D lithography. The ETH scientists applied this method to produce a kind of mould or template for their micromachines. These templates have narrow grooves that serve as a “negative” and can be filled with the chosen materials.
Using electrochemical deposition, the scientists fill some of the grooves with metal and others with polymers before ultimately dissolving the template away with solvents. “Our interdisciplinary group consists of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, chemists, and materials scientists who all work closely together. That was the key to developing this method,” says Fabian Landers, a doctoral student in Pané’s group. He is the other lead author of the paper, which has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
Vehicle with tiny magnetic wheels
As a proof of principle for making micromachines by interlocking materials, the ETH scientists created various miniscule vehicles with plastic chassis and magnetic metal wheels powered by means of a rotating magnetic field. Some of the vehicles can be propelled across a glass surface, while others – depending on the polymer used – can float in liquid or on a liquid surface.
The scientists are now planning to refine their two-component micromachines and experiment with other materials. In addition, they will attempt to create more complex shapes and machines, including some that can fold and unfold themselves. Besides serving as “ferries” that distribute active substances, future applications of micromachines include treating aneurysms (bulges in blood vessels) or performing other surgical procedures. Another research goal is to make stents (tube shaped vessel supports) that unfold themselves and can be positioned at a specific place in the body using magnetic fields.
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Tinker Racer Reviewon April 29, 2021 at 11:20 am
Tinker Racers is a fun game and far exceeded my expectations. It brought back many childhood memories of racing round in Micro Machines and it makes me hope that they release more levels for a DLC.
- Remembering the Micro Machines Phenomenonon April 26, 2021 at 10:42 am
Everyone knows Hot Wheels and Matchbox, but what about Micro Machines? This is the tale of how a line of tiny cars made big bucks in the 80s.
- Will Software Mergers Have an Impact on e-Sports?on April 21, 2021 at 3:19 pm
E-sports is easily one of the fastest-growing trends in the world at the moment. With the world changing in a number of ways, it’s obvious that streaming-based sports are one of the top growth markets ...
- Tinker Racers Review – Microscopic Mayhemon April 17, 2021 at 8:00 am
Tinker Racers on Xbox is a fun little game despite its limitations. However, when all is said and done, it doesn’t do enough to escape from the shadow cast by the game which inspired it.
- Hasbro and Jazwares launch first licensed Micro Machines collection with General Motorson April 5, 2021 at 3:18 pm
Hasbro and Jazwares are expanding the new Micro Machines universe with the launch of the first licensed collection of vehicles, partnering with the popular General Motors brand for the first ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- U of T researchers develop first-of-its-kind dexterous microrobots for neurosurgeryon April 30, 2021 at 8:03 am
U of T researchers are developing microrobots with unique dexterity capabilities. Controlled by magnetic fields, this technology is a departure from the rigid, wired designs of most micro-surgical ...
- Enhanced energy harvesting near exceptional points in systems with (pseudo-)PT-symmetryon April 21, 2021 at 8:49 am
Optimising energy harvesting is relevant to a variety of micro and nanotechnologies with applications ranging from self powered nanodevices to microfluidic pumps in biological environments. Here, the ...
- Magnetic tri-bead microrobot assisted near-infrared triggered combined photothermal and chemotherapy of cancer cellson April 12, 2021 at 2:26 am
To address this issue, we developed a type of strong covalently bound tri-bead drug delivery microrobots with NIR photothermal response azobenzene molecules attached to their carboxylic surface ...
- Bioinspired cilia arrays with programmable nonreciprocal motion and metachronal coordinationon April 4, 2021 at 5:01 pm
mobile microrobots, and bioengineering systems. Cilia broadly exist in a wide range of organisms on the micrometer scale and can induce notable net fluid flows at very low Reynolds number (Re; ~0.001 ...
- Microscopic Robots Deliver Drugs to the Brainon March 31, 2021 at 10:21 am
In a study published March 24 in Science Robotics, scientists made magnetically controlled microrobots based on neutrophils, a type of white blood cell. In mice, these so-called neutrobots penetrated ...