ATLANTA, August 21 -- An inventor of micro-robots -- nanotools capable of manipulating large molecules and cells -- says he and his collaborators are "no more than a year away" from producing programmable microvalves that can be used in chemical analysis and potentially in DNA sequencing, as reported in NanoBiotech News.
The micro-robots were developed by Los Gatos, CA-based Innovation On Demand Inc. and investment firm Technology Innovations LLC, of West Henrietta, N.Y.; the companies were granted a US patent in July that covers microactuators (tiny devices that control microscopic objects) that can be operated wirelessly by focused beams of energy, enabling the devices to control objects in the nanoscale range -- as small as 100 nanometers (billionths of a meter).
Early uses of the micro-robots would be for drug discovery, construction and control of medical devices such as valves and stents, microsurgical instruments and manipulation of proteins and genetic components. The microactuators use special metal alloys that return to a "memory" state when heated. They eliminate the need for chips, batteries, and other bulky devices, allowing for actuators that can be miniaturized down to the low-micron range.
"These microactuators fill the huge gap between millimeter-size (thousandth of a meter) actuators at the high end and scanning-probe-microscope atomic manipulators at the low end, which are limited to moving individual atoms and small molecules slowly around," said inventor Ken Clements, CEO of Innovation On Demand and partner in the development of the technology with Technology Innovations.
When a scanning electron microscope or a laser heats up the shape-memory alloy elements in the micro-robots, it allows them to "walk" or grip and manipulate nanoscale objects, Clements said. "A single scanning electron microscope could control multiple micro-robots engaged in a variety of biomedical and biotechnology research, nanomanufacturing and other tasks."
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