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Engineers have developed tiny, robotic hands — also known as microgrippers (above) — that could be used in lab-on-a-chip applications.
Credit: American Chemical Society
(Click image to enlarge)
January 14, 2009 -- In a
finding straight out of science fiction, chemical and biomolecular
engineers in Maryland are describing development of microscopic,
chemically triggered robotic “hands” that can pick up and move small
objects. They could be used in laboratory-on-a-chip applications,
reconfigurable microfluidic systems, and micromanufacturing, the
researchers say. A report on their so-called “microgrippers” is in the
December 3, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
the new study, David Gracias and colleagues note that researchers have
long sought to develop chemically triggered microscopic devices that
can manipulate small objects with precision. Chemical actuation occurs
in biological machinery and enables autonomous function in nature with
high specificity and selectivity. Although other scientists have made
experimental “grippers” in the lab, these devices generally require the
use of batteries and wiring, making them hard to miniaturize and
maneuver in small spaces and convoluted conduits.
researchers describe development of tiny metallic microgrippers shaped
like a hand that work without electricity. The grippers are about 0.03
inches wide when open — smaller than the diameter of a grain of sand
and made from a gold-coated nickel “palm” joined by six pointy metallic
“fingers.” The addition of certain chemicals triggers the hands to open
or close. In laboratory studies, the scientists demonstrated that the
grippers could grasp and release tiny pipes and glass beads and
transport these objects to distant locations with the aid of a magnet,
showcasing their potential for pick-and-place operations that are
ubiquitous in manufacturing, they say.
also say that this demonstration is also a step toward the development
of Micro Chemo Mechanical Systems (MCMS) in contrast to the already
well established field of Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS); the
main difference being that the tools are triggered by chemistry as
opposed to electricity.
A news release courtesy of American Chemical
Society, a nonprofit organization providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases,
peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences.
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