Timon Singh

Scientists Create Laser-Controlled Micro-Robot from a Bubble

by , 05/25/12
filed under: Renewable Energy

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We’d like to think that here at Inhabitat, we are rather clued in to the latest in robotics, however a new development has blown our minds. A group of scientists at the University of Hawaii have created a unique non-mechanical micro-robot from one of the most fragile and delicate objects around—a bubble. And not limited to that, but they control it with lasers!

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The optically controlled bubble microrobot is controlled by light patterns, and it is hoped it will be able to aid in the micro-assembly of objects, including live cells. What follows next is quite technical so bear with us.

In order to control a bubble,  a 400mW 980nm infrared laser is shone through the bubble onto the heat-absorbing surface of the working saline solution area. The fluid, that the bubbles are in, attempts to move from the rapidly heating area, and this fluid flow pushes the bubble towards the heated area. By constantly moving the laser to different sides of the bubble, the scientific team is able to achieve complete 360 degree steering, as well as controlling the bubble’s speed via the intensity of the laser.

The team have shown how well they can manipulate small objects by using a ‘bubble robot’ to push glass beads around to form the letters “UH” (for University of Hawaii). As well as being able to create robots from (literally) thin air, the scientific team has another big advantage over traditional microbots, in that they are able to control many different bubbles independently using separate lasers or light patterns from a digital projector.

The next step for the team is to create swarms of microscopic bubble robots and get them to construct microstructures using an array of thermal lasers. Here’s hoping it all goes to plan, because the idea of a swarm of independently controlled bubble robots is quite unnerving.

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+ University of Hawaii

Via Gizmodo

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