Scientists Devise Method to Get Individual Microrobots to Work Together on TasksBy Russell Westerholm
A team of researchers figured out a way to utilize tiny individual robots thanks to force field technology.
According to Discovery News, each microrobot is no larger than a dust mite, but the researchers have devised a way for them to work together on various tasks. The technique, detailed in the journal Micromachines, also accounts for keeping the robots powered.
"The reason we want independent movement of each robot is so they can do cooperative manipulation tasks," study co-author David Cappelleri, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, said in a press release. "Think of ants. They can independently move, yet all work together to perform tasks such as lifting and moving things. We want to be able to control them individually so we can have some robots here doing one thing, and some robots there doing something else at the same time.
"The robots are too small to put batteries on them, so they can't have onboard power," he said. "You need to use an external way to power them. We use magnetic fields to generate forces on the robots. It's like using mini force fields."
The robots could serve a range of purposes, including the medicinal field, with the usage of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).
"So far people have been good at making MEMS devices containing different components," he said. "But a lot of times the components are made from different processes and then have to be assembled to make the final device. This is very challenging. We can instead assemble them with our robots. And on the biological side we might use them for cell sorting, cell manipulation, characterization and so on. You could think about putting the microcoils on the bottom of a petri dish."