Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from Kristina Grifantini

A Microbot Shows off its Soccer Skills

A machine no bigger than a fruit fly’s eye successfully scores a goal.

  • November 24, 2009

Tiny “robots” that could perhaps someday help doctors examine organs, deliver drugs directly, or even perform microsurgery. But first researchers need to find reliable and accurate ways to control microscopic devices, which of course have little room for onboard power, sensors or propulsion.

courtesy of ETH Zurich

Scientists have previously used methods including magnetic and electrostatic forces, and attaching live bacteria. In the latest issue of the International Journal of Robotics Research, researchers from ETH Zurich demonstrate particularly deft control of a microbot, dubbed MagMite.

MagMite, pictured above, is 300 micrometers by 300 micrometers (with a thickness of 70 micrometers). It consists of two magnetized components, connected by a tiny spring. In the presence of a magnetic field, the two pieces try to bend toward each other, storing that tension in the connecting spring. By turning the magnetic field on and off very quickly, the researchers can use the loaded spring to propel the microbot forward, and by changing the direction of the magnetic field the microbot will turn.

In the video below, MagMite wins the 2009 Nanogram RoboCup competition by autonomously pushing a tiny particle into a target while avoiding obstacles. Frutiger says the control method could also be useful in a lab setting for manipulating tiny biological matter. Currently, the MagMite only works in two dimensions.

Discover how robotics is driving the future of work at EmTech Next!

Find more information and register
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.