Cornell professor and biophysicist Itai Cohen has given a talk on January 29 at Duke’s Physics Colloquium on his origami-inspired microscopic robots, shedding light on potential applications of this nanotechnology.

Itai Cohen Group’s research was inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding Origami to print 2D nanorobot that later fold themselves into a 3D structures in accordance with respective data inputs from surroundings.

As Professor Cohen put it “an origami artist is only as good as their origami paper”, that is why the scientists use graphene shits that are only one atom thick and behave in a similar way to paper. 

According to the research group web page, “these machines fold and change shape in fractions of a second in response to external stimuli, showing that they sense their environments, respond, and perform useful functions on time and length scales comparable with microscale biological organisms”.

Building robots at a nano scale requires more technological advanced than normal robotics, but opens new ways to use them in future, reads the web page:

“Combining the size and speed of these devices with the capabilities of microscale electronics will open the door to a generation of small machines for sensing, robotics, energy harvesting, and interacting with biological systems on the cellular level”

At this moment the team envisions implications for identifying and resolving neurological disorders. But in Cohen’s opinion, further research can lead to solving the water crisis, or even predicting people movements in response to political actions.

So far the scientists have also progressed to creating a microscopic robot with legs that literally walks in a Petri dish, as well as a robot that flexes the arms when a light shines on it.

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