Scientists at the European Laboratory of non Linear Spectroscopy (LENS) in Florence, Italy, used a soft material made of a liquid-crystalline network to fabricate a flexible microscopic hand. By mimicking hominid hands at the micro scale, they achieved object grabbing with a novel microrobot controlled by light illumination. Object grabbing is a challenging task, and it is even more difficult at the micro scale, where a microhand needs to be able to identify and locate as well as manipulate microscopic objects with dexterity and accuracy ideally without human intervention.
By means of a Nanoscribe's 3D printer, the researchers fabricated a light-sensitive liquid-crystalline microscopic hand with only 200 µm length (shown in the image). Powered and controlled by a laser beam the microhand can change its shape. In response to the laser illumination a local alignment of the liquid-crystal molecules occurs inside the network which triggers a deformation of the microhand (right vs left side in the image). Specifically, the microhand is capable to bend its four orthogonal elastic fingers towards the center of the robot, closing the hand body and grabbing the particles inside of it.
Find the light-actuated microhand and more 3D printed microrobots in our new application section on ‘Micromachines’.