Researchers from the Max Planck Institute have been experimenting with real micro-sized robots that literally swim through your bodily fluids and could be used to deliver drugs or other medical relief in a highly-targeted way.
The microrobots, the size of 800 microns, are designed to swim through the fluids of a changing viscosity, like blood and plasma. To do this, the microbots need a method of propulsion that can fit in their tiny bodies as well as take advantage of the non-Newtonian fluid in which they are moving. The team of Max Planck Institute researchers is using a reciprocal method of movement to propel their microscallops. The researchers call this process “modulation of the fluid viscosity upon varying the shear rate.” In simple terms, the micro scallops open and close their “shells” to compress the fluid and force it out behind them, which then propels them along.
The research team used ferromagnetic actuators (basically magnetically-operated hinges) to open and close their shells under the influence of an applied external alternating magnetic field – on to close, off to open. Do this often enough and quickly enough, and the microrobot scallop can swim.
The simplicity of microscallops makes them also ideal to be printed on a 3D printer.
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