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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.
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How to mass produce cell-sized robots

74 Folder Collection
jbsatvtac1 published on August 22, 2019
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