Scientists at the Cornell University have created nanobots that could be injected into human bodies to understand and perform surgery more effectively. These would be the first of its kind microscopic robots made from semiconductor components, as per the creators from Cornell University. The nanorobots can be made to walk inside the human body using standard electronic signals.

Each robot has four limbs- legs that comprise of tiny actuators, which are connected to a patch of solar cells located on the device’s chassis. When the laser beams are shined on these patches, the legs bend and make the robot walk. The nanobots are extremely small: of around 5 microns thick (0.005 cms), 40 microns wide, and in between 40 – 70 microns in length. In trails, the researchers managed to make more than a million of the robots from a four-inch silicon wafer.

Nanorobots nanobots

The nanorobots can be made to walk inside the human body using standard electronic signals.

“Controlling a microscopic robot is like shrinking yourself down. I think machines and robots like these will take us into all kinds of amazing worlds which otherwise are too small to see. In five to ten years ahead, I think it will become a reality to have microscopic machines and robots that will explore an environment without any human support or guidance. The vision is of a little programmable robot that one write instructions to and then it goes on the mission, powered by sunlight. Given the state of the art and development of microelectronics, this is pretty feasible in future, and the entire robot could be built at a cost of less than a penny,” said the lead author of the study Marc Miskin, a former postdoctoral researcher at Cornell.

The robots are so small that swarms of these can be injected through a needle into a human body. These nanorobots could then travel through body tissues and blood on their way and stitch up the blood vessels or probe the human veins. However, these robots still need to be controlled from the outside for the time being. Someday, they might be equipped with artificial intelligent ‘brains’ and batteries that will make them roam autonomously.

The microscopic walking robots are shorter, thinner and narrower than the width of a human hair. Researchers also hope that the first to carry and use onboard electronics, will be able to effectively deliver drugs and medicines deep into human tissues. They hope that in five to ten years the robot, which is currently a prototype tested successfully, can be developed into a smart, autonomous device to explore an area without the need of human control and guidance.

How nanobots work

Each nanobot has a simple circuit made from silicon photovoltaics. The photovoltaics convert light into electricity and functions as the torso and brain of the robot. The researchers from outside control the robots by flashing laser pulses at different photovoltaics ranges, each of which charges up the legs. By switching the laser back and forth between the front and the back photovoltaics, the robot easily walks.

The researchers are exploring methods to boost the nano robots with more complicated and advanced electronics and onboard computation which would one day have swarms of microscopic robots crawling through and restructuring materials of the human body or being dispatched for probing large areas of the complex human brain.