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Good things come in small packages – the rise of the nanobots
Nanobots are being developed to enter and work in micro-environments. This means that tiny robots are becoming a big help in areas such as medicine, where they can work inside the human body, or in difficult environments where humans cannot easily work, such as airplane engines in transit! We put these robots under the microscope to investigate how such good things can come in small packages.
- Researchers from the Swiss Intelligent Systems Lab have developed tiny robotic actuators – the part of a machine which allows it to move – that can enter the human body and even perform surgery. Made of gelatin, these miniscule robots are both edible and digestible and, because they are filled with air or fluid, they can move around the body. Teaming these jelly actuators with other edible electronics, such as ingestible cameras, could lead to a fully edible robot to help out in medical surgery from the inside.
- The Harbin Institute of Technology has created nano-swimmers which are able to move smoothly as their gold bodies are bordered by two nickel – and therefore magnetic – arms which mimic the motion of swimming and can propel them through viscose fluid. These mini-robots can really get under your skin – and into your bloodstream! At 5 micrometres long, these nano-swimmers are smaller than the width of human hair which is (75 micrometres)! It is therefore hoped that these micro-robots could be used in treatments by being coated in medicine and eventually injected into the bloodstream.
- Scientists need a helping hand… even if it is a millionth of a millimetre in size. A group of scientists at the University of Manchester have created a tiny nanorobot which can be programmed and controlled in order to carry out experiments and even build molecules. There are big dreams for these tiny robots and it’s been suggested that they could help to discover new drugs across scientific fields and reduce the need for materials and equipment.
- Hitachi is also developing micro technology and was recently part of a global research initiative to look into the decline of bee populations. The decrease in numbers is bad news for us as those busy bees are essential for pollination and therefore our food chain! The Global Initiative for Honeybee Health led the research which involved safely gluing Hitachi Chemical’s RFID tag to the backs of bees in order to monitor their movements and collect data on environmental issues. It is hoped this microtech will be able to help those brilliant bees!
These technologies really do support the old adage that good things come in small packages and their impact on the world could be colossal.