Hawaii lab turns laser-powered bubbles into microrobots

May 23, 2012 by Nancy Owano weblog
Hawaii lab turns laser-powered bubbles into microrobots

(Phys.org) -- A team of scientists from the University of Hawaii are working on microrobots created from bubbles of air in a saline solution. The bubbles take on their title of “robots” as a laser is deployed to work as an engine to power the bubbles’ directions and speed. The microrobots follow the positions of the projected light; multiple microrobots can be controlled at once. Among the demonstrations is an example of how bubble microrobots can pass around glass microbeads. Using a fine-tipped syringe filled with air and saline solution, the scientists went to work on making these robots out of bubbles.

Their setup included a 400 mW infrared laser to propel the . Light patterns were in control of the microrobots’ movements. The laser, shone through the bubble, heats the far side; the bubble solution tries to shift away from the heated side toward the cooler side. This fluid flow pushes the bubble towards the hot area. An array of infrared lasers can steer the bots for a finely tuned manipulation at small levels.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Moving the laser to different sides of the bubble affords complete 360 degree steering. The velocity of the bubble is proportional to the intensity of the , and the process can go slow or fast.

The team responsible for this work, from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, presented their study last week at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in St. Paul, Minnesota. Wenqi Hu, Kelly S. Ishii, and Aaron T. Ohta from the university’s Department of Electrical Engineering, presented "Cooperative Micromanipulation Using Optically Controlled Bubble ."

Next steps for the researchers will be to explore how the bubbles can be used in teams to transport and assemble microbubbles into complex shapes.They aim for a system that can provide autonomous control realtime, based on visual feedback.

IEEE Spectrum, commenting on their work, says a result of their explorations may be having swarms of microscopic bubble robots conjured out of nothing and set to work building microstructures with an array of thermal lasers, and "then when they're finished, give each one a little pop to wipe it completely out of existence without any mess or fuss.”

Explore further: Bubble machine studies chaotic behavior

More information: www-ee.eng.hawaii.edu/~aohta/research.html

via IEEE

Related Stories

Bubble machine studies chaotic behavior

December 12, 2005

Harvard University scientists say they've produced an example of self-organized complexity in a rudimentary microfluidic bubble generator.

A New Take on Microbrewing

April 10, 2008

Since Babylonian times, a still has provided the means to turn grain, fruit, or vegetables into an intoxicating drink. Today, a still may provide a solution to the more complex problem of how to detect diseases.

Mysterious nanobubble burst?

December 2, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- The nanobubbles that develop on submerged surfaces should not really be able to exist. Because of the enormous internal pressure, they should disappear within a short time. Nevertheless, they sometimes last ...

Humpback whales catch prey with bubble-nets

June 24, 2011

Marine biologist David Wiley of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others report in the latest issue of Behaviour (Volume 148, Nos. 5-6) how humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine catch prey with ...

Recommended for you

Seeing quantum motion

August 28, 2015

Consider the pendulum of a grandfather clock. If you forget to wind it, you will eventually find the pendulum at rest, unmoving. However, this simple observation is only valid at the level of classical physics—the laws ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2012
If most of the various cells can continue to function whilst being moved and thereafter then we might see computer driven lasers able to construct sizable tissue chunks in sterile conditions suitable for implanting - joining dots of a number of disciplines could see so many conditions addressed much sooner than most researchers of 10 years ago expected !

Brilliant, looking forward to progress to alleviate medical suffering :-)
PhotonX
not rated yet May 24, 2012
If most of the various cells can continue to function whilst being moved and thereafter then we might see computer driven lasers able to construct sizable tissue chunks in sterile conditions suitable for implanting - joining dots of a number of disciplines could see so many conditions addressed much sooner than most researchers of 10 years ago expected !

Brilliant, looking forward to progress to alleviate medical suffering :-)
Microfluidic dynamics has already delivered this, using what is basically ink-jet technology to 'print out' half of a small mammal heart, which began spontaneously beating at the midway point. While I haven't looked, I haven't heard any more about that in some time, so I don't know if development continued.
.
My first thought on this article was to wonder if I can blow a balloon around my living room with a table fan, do I have a robot? Doesn't seem so to me.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.