Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois are experimenting with a new line of tiny robots that run on a unique source of energy. According to Wired Magazine, the robots are able to assemble themselves and interact with other particles when exposed to certain magnetic fields.
"There is nothing fancy about magnetic particles. You can just buy them," physicist Igor Aranson explained to the news source. "But if you pour them on the surface of a liquid, you can form robots which can do something useful."
Metal particles floating between a layer of oil and water spontaneously form into larger structures when exposed to alternating magnetic fields. These self-assembling robots swim, latch on to other particles and later dissolve when the magnetic field is turned off.
According to ExtremeTech, the micro-robots are currently just one half millimeter in diameter. However, they already have the capability to move particles more than five times their size.
Aranson believes this breakthrough could have a significant impact throughout the robotics industry. The technology could be harnessed to clean surfaces, manipulate chemical reactions or even one day deliver intravenous medical treatment.