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September 2, 2016

Tiny origami robot

This tiny origami robot is made of laser-cut PVC and polystyrene. Once heated, the body folds around a magnet and the robot is controlled using an external magnetic field, allowing it to move around on land or in water. Once finished, the robot can dissolve to nothing in acetone (except the magnet).

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This tiny origami robot was created by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Technical University of Munich and is discussed in the paper "An Untethered Miniature Origami Robot that Self-folds, Walks, Swims, and Degrades."

The body of the robot is made of PVC, with creases where it is supposed to fold, and a magnet. Heating the magnet activates the sheet to self-fold into a functional 3-D robot capable of conducting basic tasks and behaviors like swimming, delivering and carrying blocks, climbing a slope and digging.

The researchers have developed three models of the origami robot: A water-degradable model, whose outer layer dissolves in water; a conductive model (aluminum coated polyester); and an acetone-degradable model, whose entire body (except the magnet) dissolves in acetone.

The researchers say these origami robots could be used to access unreachable sites and show promise for use in medical applications.

The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (grants EFMA 12-40383 and CNS 11-38967). (Date image taken: Unknown; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: Aug. 8, 2016)

Credit: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum

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