Tiny programmable soft robots controlled by light with many potential applications
Sluicing around our circulatory systems, drug molecules eventually end up where they’re needed but they’re also prone to the swirling currents around organs and tissues. The answer may be tiny soft robots, artificial devices designed to swim through pulsing fluids or gently sway molecules to where they need to be. Surrounded by water, this tiny gear (10 million times smaller than a windmill in a sandcastle) spins anticlockwise after a blast of green laser light and clockwise with red light. Different areas on the gear’s blades heat up in the changing wavelengths, producing a turning force by a process known as the Marangoni effect. Elsewhere, researchers use similar tricks of light to steer devices around corners – prototypes for tiny 'freighters' that may one day deliver chemical cargos to specific destinations around the body.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.