In 1959, Richard Feynman, a former Cornell physicist, described the scope for shrinking technology, from computer chips to machines, to incredibly small sizes, in one of his most famous lectures, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” The first microscopic robots have been created by a Cornell-led partnership that includes semiconductor components, allowing them to move and be controlled – with standard electronic goals.
These robots, approximately the size of paramecium, offer a template for constructing even more complex varieties that use silicon-based intelligence, may someday move through the blood and human tissue, and can be mass-produced as well.
The walking robots are known to be the latest iteration and evolution to the existing nanoscale creations of Cohen and McEuen, from microscopic sensors to origami machines known to be graphene-based. The new robots are approximately 40-70 microns in length, 40 microns wide, and 5 microns thick. Each robot contains a simple circuit made up of silicon photovoltaics – that functions as the brain and torso – and four electrochemical actuators, to function as legs. Even though the tiny machines may seem pretty basic, the creation of legs was, no doubt, an enormous feat.
In the latest invention, the already existing semiconductor technology is taken and converted into something releasable and small, appropriate for the robot’s brains. However, the legs didn’t exist before. There were also no electrically activatable, small actuators that could be used. So, the research team had to invent everything and combine them properly with the electronics.
Using lithography and atomic layer deposition, the legs were constructed by the team from platinum strips of approximately a few dozen atoms thick, which are further capped by a thin layer of titanium on one side. Negatively charged ions get adsorbed onto the surface from the neighboring solution when a positive electric charge is applied to the platinum, thereby neutralizing the charge. These ions make the strip bend by forcing the exposed platinum to enlarge. The ultra-thinness quality of the strips helps the material to bend without breaking. To control the motion of the 3D lamb properly, rigid polymer panels have been patterned by the researchers atop the strips. The gaps present between the panels operate like an ankle or knee, making the legs bend in a controlled manner and generating motion.
This research and technological innovation related to silicon-wafer provides exciting market opportunity for the key players of silicon-wafer-reclaim market globally.
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