JUL 24, 2019 11:44 PM PDT

Novel Approach For Self-Assembling Micromachines

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have designed a novel approach for the development of micromachines. Such approach allows self-assembly of the components of microvehicles, microrotors and micropumps in an electric field. Additionally, the novel approach can prove new use in constructing medical microrobots in the human body or to design laboratory devices on a microchip.

As the microparticles that serve as the vehicle's wheels are magnetic, the vehicle can be propelled by a rotating magnetic field.© MPI for Intelligent Systems / Nature Materials 2019

For example, improving the current use of microvehicles could advance the delivery of drugs to the source of the disease as well as helping with diagnoses and taking on minimally invasive surgery. Other micromachines, which have long been an interest for medical, biological and chemical laboratories, can function as a laboratory on a microchip and save time and money on medical or environmental chemistry analyses need a room full of equipment.

Micromachines have long relied on magnetic particles that come together in a magnetic field. Now, the novel approach—known as "dielectrophoresis”—advances self-assembly of micro-machines by utilizing an electric field of varying strengths that is “polarizing an electrically insulating plastic frame along with further plastic or quartz glass components”.

Watch this video below to learn more:

"If we change the shape of the components, we can control how the components attract each other," says Yunus Alapan, who was involved heavily in the instrumentation of the new technique.

Furthermore, researchers used the technique for the self-assembly of a magnetically propelled microvehicle with a non-magnetic chassis and magnetic beads as wheels. "We designed the chassis with wheel pockets because, structurally, this generates forces that are ideal for attracting the magnetic wheels," says Alapan. "Only seconds after we turned on the electric field, the wheels were pulled into the wheel bags."

Wheel mounting in seconds: as soon as a non-uniform electric field is switched on, the chassis of a microvehicle pulls its own wheels into wheel pockets. After just over a second, all the wheels are in place. © MPI for Intelligent Systems / Nature Materials 2019

"The components of our micromachines are not tightly bound," says Berk Yigit, who was involved in the research for his doctorate. "Rather than forming rigid connections, each part can move independently." The researchers were, therefore, able to drive the microvehicle using a rotating magnetic field that, likewise, rotated the wheels.

For a microvehicle to be able to mount its own wheels, its chassis must be designed so that a non-uniform field will cause them to be pulled towards the wheel bags. A computer can calculate how the component influences the electric field.© MPI for Intelligent Systems / Nature Materials 2019

"Micromachines that have a high degree of mobility could in the future be used to deliver drugs to manipulate individual cells -- currently, constructing machines of this size is a huge challenge," says Metin Sitti. "Our new approach has the potential to reduce the complexity of such construction."

Source: Science Daily, Nature Materials

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
You May Also Like
DEC 02, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 02, 2019
The Air Force's X-37B Plane Spent 780 Days in Space, But Why?
The United States Air Force regularly conducts top-secret missions and science experiments on behalf of the federal government. One of the military branch&...
DEC 21, 2019
DEC 21, 2019
New Device Helps With Swallowing Disorders
A wearable monitoring device can provide relief for individuals with swallowing disorders. The device was developed to be affordable when hitting the marke...
JAN 01, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 01, 2020
Century-old Bretherton's Bubble Problem Solved
Some of the most common phenomena in life also hide puzzling mysteries.  When you pour water into a glass, many air bubbles would often appear. Becaus...
JAN 05, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 05, 2020
It's Finally the Year of the Mars 2020 Mission
It’s officially 2020, and with that in mind, anyone paying attention to NASA’s launch schedule should know already that the Mars 2020 rover is...
FEB 17, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
FEB 17, 2020
Engineering a Genome
Scientists are learning more about how to use the genetic code to make a synthetic genome with specific biological functions....
FEB 11, 2020
Earth & The Environment
FEB 11, 2020
The mark of a contrail on the atmosphere
Do you know what an airplane contrail is? Have you ever looked up into the sky with that azure blue backdrop and seen the elegant white tail slowly evapora...
Loading Comments...