Another job has been lost to robots: Pac-man’s. The video above, based on research published today in Science Advances, shows a microscopic robot, seen through an optical microscope and being controlled by a magnetic field, capturing a single yeast cell, much like a Pac-man eating a dot.
Developed by North Carolina State University biochemical engineers Orlin Velev and Koohee Han and colleagues at Duke University, the microbot is made of 10-micrometer polymer cubes, with one side coated in cobalt. When a magnetic field is applied, the metallic side acts like a magnet, making the structure assemble in a particular shape — in this case, a box — enclosing the live yeast cell.
When the magnetic field is turned off, the microbot reverts to its linear shape, releasing the captured cell. “Tiny particles in the shape of cubes can attach together in sequences where they face in different directions to make, for example, clusters that behave like a tiny Pac-Man.” Velev said. “You can open them by applying a magnetic field and then let them close by turning the magnetic field off.”
According to the researchers, future experiments with play with different shapes and attempt to build microbots that can move autonomously. “This research is really about fundamental principles for manipulating and empowering self-reconfigurable assemblies on the microscale,” Koohee Han says.
“This may open new possibilities in realizing bioinspired micro-origami structures and artificial muscles as well as mimicking the swimming motion of natural organisms such as scallops.”