Tiny Robot - A New Revolution- Syncells - Seeker's Thoughts

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Thursday, 25 October 2018

Tiny Robot - A New Revolution- Syncells

Introduction – cell-sized robot  

Robots are getting smaller and smaller, from size of bugs down to tiny bead-shaped robots that could one day swim through the body to monitor health or deliver medication. 

MIT engineers recently managed to create cell-sized robots that could collect data about their environment, but were a little tricky to manufacture.  
Photo Credit- The Hindu 



The robots – called syncells’ (short for synthetic cells) -- are microscopic devices made of graphene and a tiny electronic device. These robots could find uses in monitoring a range of data from infections in the human body to conditions in air and gas pipelines. The problem was that these tiny bots all needed to be made by hand, which is a time-consuming process. 

Autoperforation

The process, called “autoperforation”, directs the fracture lines so that they produce miniscule pockets of a predictable size and shape. Embedded inside these pockets are electronic circuits and materials that can collect data, according to a study published in the journal Nature Materials.
Note- the new process, called ‘autoperforation’, was published in a paper Nature Materials.
In this process there is an important role of graphene. Therefore, before understanding the process lets understand what is graphene.? 


Graphene – graphene is one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It is the building-block of graphite (which is used, among others things, in pencil tips), but graphene is a remarkable substance on its own – with a multitude of astonishing properties which repeatedly earn it the titlwonder material” 



if you are not able to understand the written process please do watch the video
Process – first, the electronics are close fitted in a polymer material. Then, tiny dots of this stuff are deposited onto a flat sheet of graphene by micro-array printer, before another layer of graphene is laid out over the top. As the top layer settles it will arrange down over the dots, like a tablecloth. 
Next, the graphene is stressed to the point that it fractures. But rather than shattering randomly like a broken window, the material will break off at strain points around each dot, leaving series of syncells that look like they’ve been neatly hole-punched out. Better yet, the edges of the two graphene layers end up sticking together, wrapping the electronic components safely inside. 

The general procedure of using controlled fracture as a production method can be extended across many length scales. It could potentially be used with essentially any 2d materials of choice, in principle allowing future researchers to tailor these atomically thin surfaces into any desired shape or form for application in other disciplines. 

Data Storage
The syncells can store information in a memory array, which can be read later using electrical probe and erased for reuse. The ream encoded the letter, I AND T into a memory array within a syncelll, and showed that it was readable, even after months of floating around the water. That data can even be stored without power. 

Ranging in size of a human red blood cell, about 10 micrometers across up to about 10 times that size, these tiny objects start to look and behave like a living biological cell. In fact, under microscope, one could probably convince most people that it is a cell, stated by researcher. 
So, in future, this mass production method could be used to make syncells with more functionality.