A First Step Toward Robots the Size of a Grain of Sand
Image of smart dust particles surrounding a drop of hydrophobic liquid in water
Credit: Jamie Link, UCSD
Chemists at the University of California, San Diego have developed minute grains of silicon that spontaneously assemble, orient and sense their local environment, a first step toward the development of robots the size of sand grains that could be used in medicine, bioterrorism surveillance and pollution monitoring.
In a paper to be published in September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which will appear in the journal’s early on-line edition this week, Michael Sailor, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD, and Jamie Link, a graduate student in his laboratory, report the design and synthesis of tiny silicon chips, or “smart dust,” which consist of two colored mirrors, green on one side and red on the other. Each mirrored surface is modified to find and stick to a desired target, and to adjust its color slightly to let the observer know what it has found.
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