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World’s Smallest Robotic Origami Bird is 20 Times Smaller Than a Grain of Sand

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Last Updated: March 19, 2021, 17:50 IST

World's smallest Origami bird | Image credit: YouTube

World's smallest Origami bird | Image credit: YouTube

The micron-sized memory actuator is activated by a jolt of voltage and can fold itself into 3-dimensional configurations.

If you love origami and also fascinated with robotics, then you don’t have to choose between the two. Researchers at Cornell University have built the world’s first and smallest self-folding nano-robot. The design is more than just very sophisticated origami. It includes a plethora of functions and design elements like electronic circuits and photovoltaics to sensors and antennas. The robot can move, fold, unfold—all on its own. The team shared a video of this interesting machine on YouTube showcasing all its abilities.

The micron-sized memory actuator is activated by a jolt of voltage and can fold itself into 3-dimensional configurations. It will retain its shape after bending even when the voltage is removed. The team has called it world’s smallest origami bird, owing to its shape.
The paper was authored by researcher Qingkun Liu and has been published in the journal Science Robotics.

Itai Cohen, professor of physics, and Paul McEuen, the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science led the practical project.

“We humans, our defining characteristic is we’ve learned how to build complex systems and machines at human scales, and at enormous scales as well, But what we haven’t learned how to do is build machines at tiny scales. And this is a step in that basic, fundamental evolution in what humans can do, of learning how to construct machines that are as small as cells,” said McEuen.

McEuen and the team want to have microscopic robots with big brains. The device is a a nanometer-thin layer of platinum capped with a titanium or titanium dioxide film. When charged, oxygen atoms travel through the plate to replace the platinum atoms. This oxidation process allows the seams between the inert glass panels to expand, thereby bending the structure into its predesignated shape. When a negative voltage is applied, the oxygen atoms are removed thereby restoring the platinum to its pristine state. By varying the voltage, they can make multiple shapes/origami structures out of the device.

Interestingly, the layers here are about 30 atoms thick. For reference, a sheet of regular paper could be around 100,000 atoms thick.
The team may contest for Guinness World Records for self-folding origami bird that is only 60 microns wide.

Keywords- World’s smallest robotic origami bird, nano robot, nano robot bird, origami bird, self-folding nano robot,

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first published:March 19, 2021, 17:50 IST
last updated:March 19, 2021, 17:50 IST