In a new study published in the journal Small Science, Chinese scientists said they have built a robot that can operate on the smallest scale ever, with an unprecedented accuracy. take.
Robots can shrink their size to as small as they like, from about a quarter of the diameter of the hair down to several micrometers. It can perform a variety of tasks in a water-rich environment, such as making artificial tissue in an experimental tray or modifying an embryo.
What makes it so special? That's because this robot is actually a laser controlled bubble.
Dai Liquo, a research author who works at the Liaoning Provincial Key Robot Research Laboratory, said: Bubble robots can serve a variety of areas such as tissue transplantation, regenerative medicine and biological research. . It will also help simplify and reduce the cost of modifying cells in the laboratory.
So how can magic bubbles do that?
China: Successful manufacturing of micrometer manipulation robots with the highest accuracy ever
Microbiological manipulations, such as tissue transplants, prototype making, gene editing or even artificial insemination, have been performed using needles.
The needles have been continuously shrunk but still need to be controlled manually under a microscope. Technicians with years of experience will directly manipulate biological samples. But even if you've become the most skilled technician, it's hard to avoid mistakes.
Imagine a giant hand having to make moves on a scale equal to one tenth of a hair.
Not having accurate manipulation tools at this scale is a barrier that is holding back the development of artificial tissue and cloning. It makes research in this field expensive, hard to advance because it is easy to fail. Normally, only less than 10% of cloned organisms survive.
Scientists are artificial insemination using a needle under a microscope
Now, Chinese scientists hope their bubble robots will address these limitations. Although, at this stage, they still operate relatively difficult, requiring a perfect combination of temperature, time and the type of laser lens used.
Bubble robots are generated by the heat generated by the laser. The intensity of the beam determines its size. Meaning you can customize the size of the bubble robot just by the parameters entered into the computer.
Robot movements follow the motion of the laser beam. As the beam moves, the bubble robot will follow.
But the operation of this robot poses another challenge for the team. The scientists found that its stable operating time only lasted a few minutes. This makes it still limited in the task of manipulating and assembling microstructure.
To overcome this, Chinese scientists had to develop a model to predict the physical characteristics and behavior of bubbles. That is, taking quality offsetting numbers will allow them to gain precise control with the bubble robot to complete a series of tasks in a short amount of time.
In an experiment using a bubble robot, the team pushed a block of artificial tissue, turned it, flipped it upright or put the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle.
But from now until this technology is ready for mass adoption, there is still much work to be done.
"Three-dimensional manipulations are not always successful … the larger the size of the object, the lower the success rate, and the longer the time it takes to complete the operation."the researchers wrote.
Bubble robot manipulation system on a micro scale of Chinese scientists
"The technology developed by Dai's team is very innovative but also"Challenging".
There are not many laboratories in the world that can do what Chinese scientists have done. It requires an advanced laser system and other sophisticated devices, and all need to work seamlessly together, He Rong said.
Although bubble robots are still in the early stages of development, He Rong sees a great potential of this technology. It can be used in many fields related to microscopic assembly and manipulation, such as biological cloning and artificial parts manufacturing.