[Image above] Yihui Zhang, a researcher from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, created an origami-inspired pop-up model from easily created 2-D patterns that can be attached to a substrate stretched taut and then buckled into 3-D structures as the substrate is relaxed. Credit: MIT Technology Review; YouTube
Scientists are racing to build the world’s tiniest super robots—more scientifically known as nanomachines—that could someday do miraculous things on a macro scale, like carry necessary drugs to specific parts of the human body or aid cleanup of environmental disasters.
These microscopic devices are made from molecules that are magnitudes smaller than a human cell. And they can move, change form, or do work on their environment—all thanks to scientists at the helm controlling the devices’ chemical and physical properties.
Last December, engineers from Rice University (Houston, Texas), Ohio University (Athens, Ohio), Dresden University of Technology (Dresden, Germany), National Institute for Materials Science (Tsukuba, Japan), and Paul Sabatier University (Toulouse, France) announced they will put their best nanocars on the starting line for the first-ever NanoCar Race.
The race was originally scheduled for October 14–15, in Toulouse, France, but has been postponed to give the teams additional time to prepare.
When it comes to building nanostructures, engineers still face challenges fabricating shapes at a microscopic scale.
Yihui Zhang, a researcher from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, knows the struggle is real. So he developed a macro solution to a micro challenge.
He created an origami-inspired pop-up model from easily created 2-D patterns that “can be attached to a substrate stretched taut and then buckled into 3-D structures as the substrate is relaxed,” according to a story from MIT Technology Review.
Zhang was recognized by MIT’s “35 Innovators Under 35” list that highlights young innovators who are creating new approaches to tackling technology challenges.
Although the model is demonstrated at the macro level, “the technique could be used to create nanostructures for a variety of uses” and could work with “a wide range of materials, including metals and polymers,” MIT Technology Review explains.
Check out the MIT video to see the demonstration in action!
Credit: MIT Technology Review; YouTube
Zhang plans to use this model concept to create an algorithm that enables researchers to easily map the 3-D structures they want onto 2-D precursors.
“It’s a tool,” Zhang tells MIT Technology Review. “People from different disciplines can build their own innovations.”