There are a lot of diseases and conditions within the body that may be treated if only mechanical devices would be small enough and powered for long enough to do their job. Engineers at MIT have created a class of magnetically activated bug-like microdevices that may foreshadow remote-controlled surgical tools and externally powered heart-assist pumps.
These interesting devices have an origami-like look and a variety of them have been built that crawl, jump, grasp, and do other things. They’re actually printed from soft materials that have ferromagnetic nanoparticles within their interior, allowing a magnet to manipulate them.
A bit of detail from the study in journal Nature:
Our approach is based on direct ink writing of an elastomer composite containing ferromagnetic microparticles. By applying a magnetic field to the dispensing nozzle while printing, we reorient particles along the applied field to impart patterned magnetic polarity to printed filaments. This method allows us to program ferromagnetic domains in complex 3D-printed soft materials, enabling a set of previously inaccessible modes of transformation, such as remotely controlled auxetic behaviours of mechanical metamaterials with negative Poisson’s ratios.
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