Origami nanobots

Float­ing cell-sized ma­chines un­fold the shape of things to come.

Cosmos - - Digest -

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.

CREDIT: COR­NELL UNIVER­SITY

Graphene- glass ‘ pa­per’ folds into cell- sized struc­tures strong enough to carry elec­tron­ics.

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