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Scientists are developing cell-sized robots to find diseases in the bloodstream



Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new method to make tiny robots that are no larger than a single cell.

The microscopic devices that the team calls "syncells" – short for synthetic cells – might, according to the researchers, should be able to monitor the conditions in an oil or gas pipeline to study diseases while passing through the bloodstream hover.

The team was able to mass-produce these tiny devices using a methodology developed for control, the natural fracture process of atomically thin, brittle materials that direct the fracture lines to produce tiny pockets of predictable size and shape.

These pockets contain electronic circuits and materials that can collect, record and output data. This process, called "autoperforation," was discovered by MIT professor Michael Strano, PhD student Pingwei Liu, graduate student Albert Liu, and eight others.

The system uses a two-dimensional form of carbon, called Graphene, the outer structure of tiny syncelles.

A layer of the material is placed on a surface, and then tiny dots of polymer material containing the electronics for the devices are deposited with a laboratory version of an inkjet printer. Then a second layer of graphene is applied.

The new system controls the fracturing process so that not accidental shards of material like the remains of a broken window are created, but parts of uniform shape and size. [1

9659002] "What we discovered is that you can apply a strain field to guide the fracture, and you can use it for controlled manufacturing," Strano said.

When the top layer of graphene is placed over the array of polymer dots forming round columnar shapes, the locations where the graph drapes over the rounded edges of the columns form lines of heavy stress in the material.

Consequently, the fractures concentrate along these boundaries and then the graphene completely breaks, but the fracture is passed around the periphery of the column.

The result is a clean, round piece of graphene that looks as if it had been neatly cut out with a microscopic punch.

In the size of th in a human erythrocyte with a diameter of about 10 microns and up to About ten times this size, these small objects begin to behave like a living biological cell, and under a microscope you could probably convince most people that it is a cell, "Strano added.

"I think it opens up a whole new tool for micro and nanofabrication."

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