(Image: from Miyashita et al., Linked publication)
Anyone who thought that origami only refers to a Japanese art of paper folding is extremely wrong. Scientists from MIT and the Technical University of Munich have now “crafted” a miniature robot made of polystyrene (the well-known foam) that can be disintegrated, just 1.7 cm long and 0.31 g light and equipped with a central magnet made of neodymium. Activated by a heat source, it begins to fold itself up and can then reach a speed of 3.8 body lengths per second, which corresponds to the equivalent of 0.23 km / h. Sounds like a little, but it is enormous for this tiny one. It is controlled by an external magnetic field.
It is even more fascinating that this simple robot (consisting of only one layer of foam) is able to swim, climb slopes, transport objects and even dig, as can be seen impressively in the video below.
Well, what can such three-dimensional, self-folding and useful robots be used for in the future? The answer to this is simple: if these robots are further miniaturized and could also be made from biodegradable materials, such as polytrimethylene terephthalate, the following scenario would be conceivable: the robot is brought into the patient in its flat form and folds through there prevailing body heat and is then led to a thrombosis by an externally applied magnet in order to dissolve it in a targeted manner. After the work was done, the robot would also disintegrate.