Technology 2 min read

Vibration-Powered Microbots to Repair Human Injuries

A micro-bristle-bot with a penny | Image courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology

A micro-bristle-bot with a penny | Image courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have designed and 3D-printed microbots powered by vibration.

Called “micro-bristle-bots,” these tiny robots measure two millimeters long, about the size of the world’s smallest ant. They move by harnessing the vibrations coming from different ultrasound sources, speakers, and piezoelectric actuators.

Speaking about their invention, assistant professor Azadeh Ansari from GIT’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering said:

“We are working to make the technology robust, and we have a lot of potential applications in mind. We are working at the intersection of mechanics, electronics, biology, and physics. It’s a very rich area and there’s a lot of room for multidisciplinary concepts.”

The researchers claim that the swarm of prototype microbots they created respond to vibrations of different frequencies based on their configurations. The said capability enables the team to control each bot by adjusting the vibration frequencies.

The team believes that a swarm of these bots could help detect changes in the environment, move objects, and even help repair human injuries from inside the body.

How the Microbots Work

In their paper published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, the Georgia Tech researchers explained how their microbots work.

Using two-photon polymerization lithography (TPP), the researchers 3D-printed the polymer bodies of the micro-bristle-bots. Then, they attached a piezoelectric actuator to the body of each bot.

Since the bots are too small to be powered internally by a battery, the actuators generate the vibrations they need to operate. The tiny bots can harness all sorts of vibrations produced by its environment, from ultrasound to vibrations created by small acoustic speakers.

Vibrations propel the microbots’ springy legs. The bots respond to different vibrations depending on the length of their legs, design, diameter, and overall geometry. By changing the vibration amplitude, the researchers can manipulate how fast or slow the microbots can move.

Prof. Ansari and her team are now working on expanding the capabilities of their mini-robots. They are planning to combine two slightly different microbots to give them the ability to steer in different directions. She noted:

“Once you have a fully steerable micro-robot, you can imagine doing a lot of interesting things.”

Read More: Ingestible Nanobots To Start Delivering Drugs Into Blood Vessels

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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