In recent times, there have been strange and as well amazing things occurring in the tech world. Looking at the title of the article literally, you may be thinking that we now have a Terminator-like robot with the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the appearance of a cell, right? Certainly not. Remember your cell theory in biology wherein a cell is defined as the smallest indivisible part of a body structure. However, the cell-size robots being referred to here are neither a human-like one nor an animal.
What are Cell-Sized Robots and What are They Used for?
Cell-sized robots are actually robots that are not bigger than the size of a cell that is incorporated into different situations in order to monitor their conditions and as well indicate where care and attention are needed.
With the support from the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Swiss National Science Foundation, a team of researchers in MIT have been able to invent a robot in the size of a cell. The cell is gotten from a graphene which is a type of carbon and it’s in a two-dimensional pattern. Graphene itself comprises of a single layer of atoms. These set of researchers were able to leverage on its brittle nature in order to control its shape.
What is the Process of Formation of these Robotic Cells?
So the process takes this form: a layer of graphene is placed over an array of tiny semiconductors. After the placement, lines of strain begin to emerge and folding of graphene sheets occurs.
These microscopic devices or synthetic robotic cells are made in a process called “autoperforation”. This is simply the process of directing the fracturing process of atomically-little materials in order to produce them in predictable minuscule pocket size and shape. These pockets are then embedded with electronic circuits that have the ability to collate data. These devices range in size which is about 10 micrometers across similar to a human red blood cell.
One of the professors at MIT; Michael Strano mentioned that these tiny cells behave like a living biological cell and when placed under a microscope, without prior information, most people will consider it a cell.
During the demonstration, Strano wrote the letters M, I, and T into a memory array that stores information at varying levels of electrical conductivity. He said that this was carried out in order to prove their effectiveness and he sees the newly developed method as a turning point. This is his statement: “I think it opens up a whole new toolkit for micro- and nanofabrication”.
With this process of formation of the robotic cell, one ought to inquire about the robustness, creativity and the greater purpose of these things. Are they even worth the huge investment? Is there likely to be repercussion during or after usage? Or better still, will it be applicable to just a single area or several? There are so many questions begging for appropriate answers. Let’s see if these questions are in and of themselves valid or worth the mention in the first place.
The Uses of Robotic Cell-Sized Devices
These robots are very useful both in the medical industry and during oil exploration. So how does it work? Let’s start with the health sector.
Since time immemorial, it has always been a big issue when treating patients suffering from terminal illnesses like cancer, diabetes, brain tumor. Based on the premise that these ailments occur at delicate places, it’s highly paramount that the real-time notification of data is taken and recorded. Now here comes the usefulness of these synthetic cells.
These microscopic cell-sized robots as developed by the MIT scientists are made to easily float through the bloodstream in order to search out for the proper location of similar diseases like the above. Now the intestines finally got a foreign visitor.
With further research and planning in this aspect, Strano describes the situation of the synthetic robotic cells being used for biomedical testing. If this occurs, it will indeed change the narrative for surgeons, doctors, medical practitioners, and laboratory assistants. It will be interesting to have data collated and returned into sensors after injecting several of these cells into the bloodstreams.
Secondly, let’s take a look at oil exploration. It’s no longer news that in regions where oil is being explored or refined, there have been cases of leakage, spills or presence of unwanted materials within the oil itself. These robotic cells monitor the conditions inside these oil pipelines.
In practical terms, these robotic devices could be placed at one end of the pipeline allowing it to flow with the oil and then removed at the other side. It will thereafter provide a record of the various conditions that were encountered which also includes the location of problem areas.