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  • (synthesizer chimes)

  • (synthesizer music)

  • Imagine if there was a way

  • to mass produce tiny robots no bigger than a cell

  • quickly, easily, and accurately,

  • with little to no external stimulus.

  • Well, a team of engineers at MIT

  • have developed a novel method where they can do just that.

  • Using the naturally occurring fracturing process

  • of atomically thin, brittle materials such as graphene,

  • the researchers are able to design

  • and successfully fabricate

  • small, synthetic cells, called syncells for short,

  • that could eventually be used to monitor conditions

  • inside an oil or gas pipeline or search out disease

  • while floating through the bloodstream.

  • The novel process, called autoperforation,

  • allows for engineers to control

  • the natural fracture lines in a material,

  • directing the lines so that they produce

  • exactly what the engineer desires.

  • In this case, the end results are minuscule pockets

  • of predictable size and shape

  • containing electrical circuits and materials

  • that can collect, record, and output data.

  • To build these syncells, first a layer of graphene

  • is laid down on a surface.

  • Then, tiny dots of a polymer material

  • containing the electronics for the devices

  • are deposited by a micro array printer.

  • Then, a second layer of graphene is laid on top.

  • When the top layer of graphene is placed

  • over the array of polymer dots, the places where

  • the graphene drapes over the edges of the dots

  • form lines of high strain in the material.

  • You can think of a tablecloth draped over a circular table.

  • The highest levels of strain develop toward the table edges

  • where the cloth hangs down.

  • That is essentially what is happening in this process,

  • but the strain is controlled.

  • So similar to the table cloth,

  • the fractures in the graphene are concentrated

  • right along the boundaries of the structure

  • and will completely fracture around the periphery.

  • The result: a round piece of graphene

  • that looks as if it's been cleanly cut out

  • by a microscopic hole punch.

  • Apart from the syncells' potential uses

  • for industrial or biomedical monitoring,

  • the researchers say that the way the tiny devices are made

  • is itself an innovation with great potential.

  • This general procedure of using controlled fracture

  • as a production method could potentially be used

  • with any 2D material.

  • Essentially opening up a whole new toolkit

  • for micro and nano fabrication.

  • (light, cheerful synthesizer music)

(synthesizer chimes)

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B2 US graphene synthesizer fracture strain material polymer

How to mass produce cell-sized robots

  • 50 1
    jbsatvtac1 posted on 2019/08/22
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