60 microns (one micron is equivalent to one thousandth of a millimeter) is the size of the origami bird that you can see in the following video , and which has been developed thanks to a new technique using new one-micron actuators with memory of shapes that allow atomically thin two-dimensional materials to fold into 3D configurations.
An actuator is a device capable of transforming hydraulic, pneumatic or electrical energy into the activation of a process in order to generate an effect on an automated process. This receives the order from a regulator or controller and, based on it, generates the order to activate a final control element.
A quick jolt of voltage
Piezoelectric actuators are those devices that produce movement (displacement) taking advantage of the physical phenomenon of piezoelectricity . The precise movement that results when an electric field is applied to the material is of great value for nanopositioning.
The world’s smallest self-folding origami bird has been created like this with actuators that just a quick jolt of voltage, and once the material is folded, it maintains its shape, even after the voltage is removed. The machines fold themselves quickly, in 100 milliseconds. They can also be flattened and folded thousands of times. And they only need one volt to come to life.
According to Itai Cohen , lead author and professor of Physics:
We want to have robots that are microscopic but have brains on board. That means you need to have appendages that are driven by complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) transistors, basically a computer chip in a 100-micron robot on one side.
The team is currently working to integrate its shape memory actuators with circuitry to make walking robots with folding legs.