(A) The micro-robot next to the ant.(B) Magnified view of the robot.(C) One leg of the robot, consisting of rigid panels and living hinges.(D) CAD layout image of the circuit with marked main circuit blocks.(E) Optical microscope image of the microrobot control circuit.Image source: "Science Robot"
This innovation lays the foundation for a new generation of tiny devices that can track bacteria, sniff out chemicals, destroy pollutants, perform microsurgery and remove plaque from arteries.
The "brain" of the new robot is a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) clock circuit containing 1,000 transistors, plus an array of diodes, resistors and capacitors.An integrated CMOS circuit generates a signal that generates a series of phase-shifted square wave frequencies that in turn set the robot's gait.The robotic legs are platinum-based actuators, and both the circuit and the legs are powered by photovoltaics.
The new robot is one-ten thousandth the size of a larger robot mounted on airborne CMOS electronics and can walk at speeds of more than 10 microns per second.
Researchers have previously developed tiny robots that can crawl, swim, walk and fold themselves, but there are always "threads" that connect them together.To generate motion, this wire is used to supply electrical current, or the laser beam must be focused directly on a specific location on the robot.
"Previously, we had to manipulate these 'wires' to get any kind of response from the robot," said Itai Cohen, a professor of physics at Cornell University. "Now we have these brains, as if from the threadThe puppet is untied from the rope, just as Pinocchio is conscious."