Tiny, Folding Actuators Spark New Ideas for Medical Nanorobots

“We want to have robots that are microscopic but have brains on board,” said Prof. Itai Cohen , professor of physics at Cornell University. In fact, Prof. Cohen and the Cornell team created what is potentially the world’s smallest self-folding origami bird. The bird's micron-sized shape memory actuators fold themselves into 3D configurations, within 100 miillseconds. The tiny robots can also flatten and refold themselves thousands of times, and only need a single volt to be powered to life.

Next, the researchers are working to combine their shape memory actuators with circuits. A successful integration will potentially enable robotic surgical instruments that are 10 times smaller than current devices, as well as nanorobots that can clean bacterial infection from human tissue.