Researchers design self-powered robots the size of human cells

AEROSOLS FOR GOOD. You may have sworn off aerosol sprays in the ’90s when everyone was talking about the hole in the ozone layer, but a team of researchers from MIT has found a use for aerosols that could be good for both the environment and our health. This spray contains nanobots, tiny sensors with the potential to do everything, from detecting dangerous leaks in pipelines, to diagnosing health issues. They published their research in Nature Nanotechnology on Monday.

NANO-SCALE SENSORS. Each sensor in the aerosol spray contains two parts. The first is a colloid, an extremely tiny insoluble particle or molecule. Colloids are so small, in fact, they can remain suspended in a liquid or the air indefinitely — the force of particles colliding around them is stronger than the force of gravity attempting to pull them down.

The second part of the sensor is a complex circuit containing a chemical detector built from a two-dimensional material, such as graphene. When this detector encounters a certain chemical in its environment, its ability to conduct electricity improves. The circuit also contains a photodiode, a device that can convert ambient light into electric current. This provides all the electricity needed to power the circuit’s data collection and memory.


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