In a world where "supersize" has entered the lexicon, there are some things getting smaller, like cell phones and laptops. Dartmouth researchers have contributed to the miniaturizing trend by creating the worlds smallest untethered, controllable robot. Their extremely tiny machine is about as wide as a strand of human hair, and half the length of the period at the end of this sentence. About 200 of these could march in a line across the top of a plain M&M. View images of the microrobot: www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2005/09/14a.html
The researchers, led by Bruce Donald, the Joan P. and Edward J. Foley Jr. 1933 Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth, report their creation in a paper that will be presented at the 12th International Symposium of Robotics Research in October in San Francisco, which is sponsored by the International Federation of Robotics Research. A longer, more detailed paper about this microrobot will also appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems, a publication of the IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
"Its tens of times smaller in length, and thousands of times smaller in mass than previous untethered microrobots that are controllable," says Donald. "When we say controllable, it means its like a car; you can steer it anywhere on a flat surface, and drive it wherever you want to go. It doesnt drive on wheels, but crawls like a silicon inchworm, making tens of thousands of 10-nanometer steps every second. It turns by putting a silicon foot out and pivoting like a motorcyclist skidding around a tight turn."
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