World’s first flying micro-robot is born

April 9th, 2009 - 11:24 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, April 9 (IANS) Canadian researchers have developed the world’s first flying micro-robot that can manipulate objects, particularly during surgeries, for micro-scale applications.
The invention provides researchers with more control over micro-scale manipulation, allowing them to move and place tiny objects with far greater precision, said Waterloo University - where an engineering research team developed the device.

In a statement Wednesday, it said the tiny new gravity-defying device can manipulate tiny objects at levels that are too small to be manipulated by humans.

Called the flying MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) robot, the device defies the force of gravity by flying or levitating, powered by a magnetic field.

It moves around and manipulates objects with magnets attached to micro-grippers, remotely controlled by a laser-focusing beam, the university statement said.

The tiny device’s micro-manipulation will be useful in micro-assembly of mechanical components, handling of biological samples and even micro-surgery, it added.

“We have developed a magnetically levitated micro-robot, which is a new technology for manipulation using flying micro-robots,” said Behrad Khamesee, research leader and professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering, who is skilled in developing micro-scale devices using magnetic levitation.

“We are the first in the world to make such a floating robot equipped with micro-grippers. It can enter virtually any space and can be operated in a sealed enclosure by a person outside, which makes it useful for handling bio-hazardous materials or working in vacuum chambers and clean rooms,” he was quoted as saying in the statement.

Explaining the new invention, the university statement said that magnetic levitation is used to position the micro-robot in a three-dimensional space, employing an external magnetic drive mechanism.

The mechanism controls that magnetic field by using feedback from position sensors in order to position the micro-robot. Since the power is supplied externally, the micro-robot can be manoeuvred.

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