Researchers Develop Laser-controlled, Cell-sized Robots

The researchers’ microscopic robots have strips of platinum only a few atoms thick that serve as legs. Shining a laser on a photovoltaic panel on the robot’s back provides voltage that causes one pair of legs to flex. Alternating between the panels allows the robot to crawl. Image credit: Penn Engineering/Cornell

One of the researchers’ robot next to a paramecium. Image credit: Penn Engineering/Cornell

Too small to see with the naked eye, this illustration shows the robot’s components: a circuitboard that serves as its torso and brain, platinum strips with rigid panels that serve as jointed legs, and photovoltaic panels that cause the legs to flex when hit with a laser. Image credit: Penn Engineering/Cornell