Miniature Self-Folding Robot Can Walk, Swim, and Dissolve After Use

MIT researchers have demonstrated an untethered micro robot self-folds, walks, swims, and dissolves at ICRA 2015 in Seattle, WA. This is the first time that a robot has demonstrated a complete life cycle like this. The unfolded robot is made of a magnet and PVC placed between laser-cut structural layers. When heated, the PVC contracts and where the structural layers have been cut, it creates folds. The motor is not actually integrated, and comes in two parts: a cubic neodymium permanent magnet that the robot folds itself around, as well as a set of four electromagnetic coils underneath the surface that the robot operates on to provide the magnetic fields that drive it. When driven into acetone, the robot dissolves (except for the magnet). In the future, it could be possible to integrate self-folding sensors into the body of the robot, which could lead to autonomous operation and eventually doing all of this inside the human body.