Engineers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a 1-sq-cm tool that will help build microscopic-sized machines.
Four microfingers within a chiplike micromanipulator station grasp and move micron-sized particles.
Laxman Saggere, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and graduate student Sandeep Krishnan developed algorithms that coordinate the fingers. The researchers used the device to grab spheres 15 µm in diameter.
A major obstacle in developing microscale machines is the assembly process. "If we want to make a micromotor, we need to assemble it with microgears, shafts, and other components at microscale. We can't do that today," says Saggere. Future designs, the engineers say, will likely employ piezoelectric actuators to refine movements.