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Researchers Design Robots with Tiny Soft Body and Great Carrying Capacity

Cruciform Thin-film Microrobot (CTM) could realize double-modal motion and environmental adaptive functions through a programmable external magnetic field.

Content provided by Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Untethered and wirelessly-controlled micro-robots have been catching substantial attention for a long time due to their potentials in bioengineering and industrial microoperation.  

Compared with ordinary rigid-body robots, soft magnetically controlled micro-robots promise a new degree in biomedical application, especially in the narrow environment containing viscous resistance and friction fluid.  

Dr. Xu Tiantian from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences designed a novel millimeter-level magnetically driven software micro-robot, named Cruciform Thin-film Microrobot (CTM), which could realize double-modal motion and environmental adaptive functions through a programmable external magnetic field.  

The CTMs, with the weight of 0.455 g, has 2 main motion modes: jellyfish-like mode and forklift truck mode.   

The first mode is similar to the motion of a jet jellyfish. By controlling the expansion and contraction of the entire shape, the vortex rings fall off the tail of the edge and the fluid moves backward, so that the “jellyfish” gains forward velocity.  

The second mode has the ability to transport the micro-objects. The load capacity experiments showed that CTM could lift the object ten times heavier than itself.  

Due to its soft and flexible body structure, the CTM has application prospects in micro-assembly, minimally invasive diagnosis, and targeted drug delivery.   

The study was published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.   

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