In a new development, researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a method for the manufacture of micrometer-long machines, wherein multiple materials are interlocked in a complex way. It is presumed, one day, such microrobots will revolutionize medicines.
Pursuing this goal for years, so much so, these tiny robots can maneuver through blood vessels and supply medications to certain points in the body. Now, for the first time, scientists at ETH Zurich have been successful in creating such micromachines out of plastic and metal, wherein the two materials are closely interlocked as links in a chain. Thanks to new manufacturing technique that has enabled to devise the robot.
Meanwhile, polymers and metals have different properties, and both materials offer certain advantages in creating micromachines.
Research aimed to leverage diverse properties of both materials
“The aim was to benefit from all the properties of metals and polymers by combining the two, stated one of the lead authors of the paper.”
As a rule, micromachines receive power from outside the body using magnetic fields, this implies magnetic metal parts are installed.
In contrast, polymers have the advantage that they can be used to construct flexible, soft components as well as parts that dissolve inside the body. Therefore, if medication is attached in this kind of soluble polymer, this enables to selectively deliver active materials to certain parts of the body.
In fact, the new manufacturing method is underpinned as a consequence of years of research of an expert. The expert employed 3D lithography – a high-precision 3D printing method that produces complex objects on the micrometer level.
For the research, scientists at ETH applied this technique to produce a kind of template or mold for their micromachines.