[extropy-chat] Microrobot

Olga Bourlin fauxever at sprynet.com
Tue Oct 11 14:00:50 UTC 2005

From: "Henrique Moraes Machado" <hemm at openlink.com.br>

> Hello,
> Can you copy the text? NY Times requires registration to read

>> http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/11/science/11FIND.html

Here you go ...


October 11, 2005
At Dartmouth, a Remote-Controlled Robot
For a steerable piece of dust, look somewhere at Dartmouth College.

Researchers there have built what they say is the world's smallest 
untethered, controllable robot. When placed on a penny, it looks like a mole 
on the side of Lincoln's chin, measuring a hundredth of an inch by one 
four-hundredth of an inch.

A traffic jam of 200 of them would stretch the length of an M&M.

The robot contains no motors or circuitry. Rather, it is a carefully carved 
piece of silicon that moves across a special surface that contains an 
embedded electrical grid. The main rectangular piece has one edge bent 
downward; from the side, it looks like an L that has toppled forward.

"You can think of it as a business card with a fold at the end," said Bruce 
R. Donald, a professor of computer science and leader of the research team.

When an electrical voltage is applied, the silicon buckles, and the long leg 
of the L is pulled down against the surface. When an opposite voltage is 
applied, the silicon rectangle pops back and pushes the robot forward. "It 
crawls along like an inchworm," Dr. Donald said.

An article describing the microrobot will appear in The Journal of 
Microelectromechanical Systems. At top speed, the robot zooms around at 
nearly a hundredth of an inch a second.

To turn the robot, a stronger voltage pulse lowers an arm extending off one 
side of the rectangle. At the end of the arm is what looks like a tiny 
lollipop with a pointy thorn at the center. The lollipop snags the surface, 
and the robot runs in circles around it. Another pulse lifts the arm, and 
the robot heads straight again.

Dr. Donald said more sophisticated versions of such robots might one day be 
used to inspect or fix chips or interact with individual cells.

Robots of different shapes could snap together to build larger structures, 
he said.

  a.. Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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