Newly developed microbots can capture and transport individual cells

Microscopic robots have been created by researchers at North Carolina State University and Duke University. By converting magnetic energy from their environment into movement, the devices can capture and transport single cells, demonstrating a step forward for microbots that function at a cellular level.

“To create the microbots, we started by making polymer cubes that have a metallic coating on one side, essentially allowing the metallic side to act as a micro-magnet,” Koohee Han, first author of the study and Ph.D. candidate at NC State, told Digital Trends. “Depending on their position, the cubes can be assembled in many different ways. Once assembled, the microbots open when a magnetic field is applied and close when the field is removed. The orientation and gradient of the magnetic field allows us to control the rotation and movement of the microbots.”

Microbots aren’t a new development but the new study demonstrates progress in the field. Whereas previously reported versions had rigid bodies that restricted them to simple tasks like pushing and penetrating, the bots made by Han and his team have the ability to fold and change their shape like origami, enabling them to attach together, open, and close through magnetic stimulation.

In their study, the researchers tasked the microbots with capturing and transporting a live yeast cell, and controlled their movement by activating and deactivating the magnetic field.

“The ability to remotely control the dynamic reconfiguration of our microbot creates a new platform for exquisitely manipulating micro-scale objects such as single-cell isolation and targeted drug delivery,” said Wyatt Shields, co-author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at Duke University and NC State University. “Although this technology is still in its early stages, we believe these tools could one day entirely replace expensive and tedious micro-manipulators.”

The researchers point out that their current design is limited to 2D functions but they see their study as driving forward small, self-reconfigurable machines.

“We expect the principles of this simple platform can be extended to more advanced structures by using more advanced particle shapes, compositions, and field parameters to address a broad range of applications, from robotics and micro-manipulation to responsive materials and on-demand reconfigurable structures,” said Orlin Velev, corresponding author and professor of chemical and biomolecular Engineering at NC State.

A paper detailing the study was published this week in the journal Science Advances.


Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Car companies remained surprisingly quiet during CES 2018. But they spoke up in 2019. From electric hatchbacks you can buy in 2019 to super-futuristic mood-detecting technology, here are the major announcements we covered during the event.

Turn to these apps to help you in your next hunt for a job

Looking for a job can be a stressful experience, but these days, a simple mobile app can help you to find and apply for jobs all over the country -- here are some of the best job search apps for iOS and Android.
Home Theater

Banish the bunny ears (and monthly bills) with these excellent HD antennas

When transitioning away from cable and satellite, finding the best HDTV antenna for your area can be touch. To help, we've compiled our picks of the best indoor HDTV antennas you can buy.

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.