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: Hide and seek: Sterile neutrinos remain elusive

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

via IEEE

Related Stories

Mysterious nanobubble burst?

Dec 02, 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 ...

Humpback whales catch prey with bubble-nets

Jun 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 a ...

A New Take on Microbrewing

Apr 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.

Recommended for you

Hide and seek: Sterile neutrinos remain elusive

15 hours ago

The Daya Bay Collaboration, an international group of scientists studying the subtle transformations of subatomic particles called neutrinos, is publishing its first results on the search for a so-called ...

Novel approach to magnetic measurements atom-by-atom

19 hours ago

Having the possibility to measure magnetic properties of materials at atomic precision is one of the important goals of today's experimental physics. Such measurement technique would give engineers and physicists an ultimate ...

Scientists demonstrate Stokes drift principle

22 hours ago

In nature, waves – such as those in the ocean – begin as local oscillations in the water that spread out, ripple fashion, from their point of origin. But fans of Star Trek will recall a different sort of wave pattern: ...

User comments : 2

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.