Floating cell-sized machines unfold the shape of things to come.
Inspired by origami, a team of physicists from Cornell University has developed super-strong shape-changing robots the size of a human cell.
Described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January, the so-called bimorphs are created by “folding them out of atomically thin paper”, made of graphene and glass.
When these bimorphs are immersed in a fluid and exposed to triggers such as heat, chemicals or electrical currents, they fold into 3D structures like tetrahedra and cubes in a fraction of a second.
The bimorphs’ shape-shifting ability is due to the fact that glass and graphene expand at different rates in response to a trigger, a difference that can be engineered into a stress-relieving curve or angle.
Their graphene-containing exoskeletons mean the bimorphs can carry significant electronic payloads and they can also be fabricated en masse.
All of which “opens the door to a generation of small machines for sensing, robotics, energy harvesting and interacting with biological systems on the cellular level,” the study says.
Graphene- glass ‘ paper’ folds into cell- sized structures strong enough to carry electronics.