Collective Microrobots: Writing Letters and Dancing the Boogie on Water’s Surface

Microrobot collectives display versatile movement patterns
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Cornell University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University developed a collective of microrobots that can move into any desired configuration. The tiny particles can quickly and easily change their swarm behaviour. The microrobotic disks, floating on water’s surface, can dance, go in circles, form a clump or spread out like a gas.

Each robot is slightly larger than a human hair. The microrobots are printed in 3D using polymers and coated with a thin layer of cobalt. The metal coating transforms the microrobots into miniature magnets. Wire coils that create a magnetic force when electricity is passed through them surround the set-up. The magnetic field allows particles to be precisely guided around a pool of one centimeter wide water. Researchers can manipulate the robots so that, when they form a straight line, they are able to \”write\” letters on the water. The research project by Gaurav Gardi, Prof. Metin Stti, Steven Ceron, Prof. Kirstin Ptersen, from Cornell University, and Prof. Wendong Wang, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, titled \”Microrobot collectives with reconfigurable morphologies, behaviors, and functions\” was published on April 26, 2022 in Nature Communications.