Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques

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Powering Nanorobots

Shop Books. Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Overview Nanorobots can be defined as intelligent systems with overall dimensions at or below the micrometer range that are made of assemblies of nanoscale components with individual dimensions ranging between 1 to nm. Product Details Table of Contents. Show More. Average Review. Write a Review.

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Ready, Set: Write - Publish - Sell! The length of this small robot is only several tens of a micrometer, which is within the same scale of a single cell. It has the ability to move outside or inside the human body, which can be used for an invasive medical operation in the future. However, these techniques are not yet mature nowadays, because the robot has to face the actuating and sensing challenges within a small space.

The development of small biomedical robot that can work as an independent device will be an essential step for the practical applications for single cell analysis. In the future, we should think of a way to make the robot much smaller, have higher integration, and more functionality. A large type of the micro-nanorobotic actuating depends on the mechatronic principle, such as hydraulic motor, electric motor, electrostatic actuator, piezo actuator, and so on.

Hydraulic and electric motors have the ability to generate a large force output and provide long movement distance. However, they cannot provide accurate positioning resolution at nanometer scale. Therefore, they are usually taken as the stage to drive the micro-nanomanipulator mode coarsely. Electrostatic actuation is one widely used technique in the development of MEMS device, which allows both the precise actuating and sensing.

For example, many micro-nanomanipulators, like the microgripper, are designed based on electrostatic mechanism [ 82 ],[ 83 ].

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However, the short moving distance is one problem for electrostatic actuation, which is usually less than several millimeters. Therefore, these kinds of manipulators are usually taken as the end effector for the micro-nanorobot. It can provide a large movement distance with several centimeters and a positioning resolution as high as several nanometers.

Nowadays, the piezo-based manipulator has been well developed and available in market. The mechatronic-principle-based manipulator has a relatively mature physical model; therefore, it is easy to control and implete.

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One main issue for this type of actuation is the existence of wires, which make it not applicable for work in a closed environment, such as inside a microchip or inside our body. A typical micro-nanorobotic manipulation system based on piezo actuation. Wireless actuation-based manipulation avoids the usage of electrical wire to connect the power supplier. Therefore, it provides the possibility to work in a closed environment. The commonly used wireless actuation techniques include optical tweezers, DEP, magnetic driving, and so on. Thus, they can manipulate the object in a narrow space with high positioning accuracy, which are very important for the in situ analysis in the microchip.

For the wireless actuation, the controllability and repeatability are big challenges, since it is difficult to build an exact physical model to control the statues of the small object in the fields. Another issue is that the force generated by these methods is usually smaller than the mechatronic actuation due to the physical principle. In addition to the above two types of actuating methods, the biochemical actuator also receives more and more attentions nowadays.

In these techniques, creatures or part of creatures are taken as the actuator directly, such as sperm, bacterial, flagella, protein, DNA, and so on, which have the moveable ability naturally. If a proper stimulation is given, the movement of these biorobots can be controlled effectively. For example, Nogawa uses the ion concentration to control the movement direction of bacterial, which can be used as a robot to deliver drugs [ 84 ]. Martel uses magnetic field to control the movement of the flagellated magnetotactic bacteria, which can perform the medical operation in the human microvasculature [ 85 ].

Scientists also design many prototypes of the nanorobot based on the unique features of protein or DNA, which can work well in a natural biochemical environment and show its significant potential in the drug encapsulation, drug delivery, and disease therapy [ 86 ]-[ 89 ]. These biochemical nanorobots have many advantages, such as small size, simple structure, self-assembly, biocompatible, and so on.

The problem is that these types of robot are usually sensitive to the environment, such as the temperature, pH value, chemical solution concentration, and so on. Nevertheless, natural creatures provide us a good example to learn from, which usually have high efficiency and can work better in a biological environment.

We believe the biochemical-inspired micro-nanorobot should be a new trend in the future, especially in the biomedical field. As a summary, actuation is one of the most important techniques for micro-nanorobotic manipulation, which involves power supply, energy transmission, driven approach, and so on. The current actuating techniques have provided many solutions for the single cell analysis. However, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed, including the optimization of size, working time, output capability, efficiency, and so on.

The biological sample is the nanorobot in nature, which has a high working efficiency and is exactly compatible for bioapplication.

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Unlike the traditional robot sensing, only a few sensing technologies can be used at the micro-nanoscale owing to the specific working environment. Because single cell analysis is usually performed under microscopy, the micro-nanorobotic manipulation has to be workable under microscopy. In this specific case, vision and force are the most effective sensing methods.

In vision sensing, the sample images are captured dynamically from the microscope, firstly.

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Then, the objects are identified and their positions are calculated based on image processing. After that, the position information is taken as the feedback signal to control the movement of the micro-nanomanipulator. One challenge for the vision feedback lies on the quality of the microscope image. The microscope images usually can only provide a few information about the environment due to the small observation area. Moreover, depth information is hard to obtain from the microscope image directly.

Therefore, the object's identification and positioning becomes much more difficult than that at the macroscale. Examples of the sensing system for a micro-nanorobot. Force sensing is usually used with vision sensing together to improve the performance of the micro-nanorobot. Generally, six DOFs, three force and three torque, are required to describe the status of one point clearly. However, it is quite difficult for the force-sensing system at micro-nanoscale, which usually can only provide one to three DOFs.

Nanobots in medicine

Therefore, the development of a MEMS force sensor that can work well under microscopy is urgently demanded for the micro-nanorobot sensing. At micro-nanoscale, the surface force rather than the inertia force becomes dominate, fluids appear as viscous as molasses, and Brownian motion makes everything incessantly shake [ 92 ]. These unique physics make the behavior of the object become sophisticated under manipulation.

For example, in the single cell gripping process, the cell may adhere to the gripper surface due to the electrostatic force rather than the clamp force, and therefore, the cell cannot be released after the gripper is opened.


Thus, the modeling of the control object becomes a big challenge, which is usually nonlinear, dynamic, randomness, and sometimes even unpredictable. In addition, only a few feedback-sensing techniques, visual and force, can work at the micro-nanoscale. Therefore, controlling is a big challenge for the micro-nanorobot owing to the modeling and sensing problems. Nowadays, the micro-nanorobot can perform some simple tasks automatically, for example, the single cell injection.

However, in most of the cases, the single cell analysis requires complex manipulation at a much smaller scale.


It is hard to build the physical model to describe the controlled objected exactly. Thus, most of the control process has to be performed based on the master-slave manipulation, in which the decisions are made by a human rather than the robot itself.

An example of a force feedback control diagram for single cell injection [ [ 93 ] ]. Consequently, the main difficulty for the micro-nanorobotic control is not the control algorithm but lies in the exact modeling of the controlled object.

We must consider the unnormal physical phenomena at a small scale. In addition, the lack of powerful feedback signals is also considered as a drawback for the micro-nanorobot system. In future work, molecular dynamics modeling or quantum electrodynamical models should be considered to better describe the property and behavior of the object at small scale.

In addition, the small and intelligent sensor for micro-nanorobot should be another essential way to solve current control problem. The micro-nanorobotic manipulator has the ability to move in micro-nanometer scale accurately, but it does not mean the size of the robot system itself is within micro-nanometer size. Actually, to the contrary, a large space is always required to support the robot to work well, since all the driving, sensing, and controlling modules need space to put equipment. However, on the other hand, we expect the robot can be as small as possible to improve its movability, especially its working ability in a closed environment.

Therefore, system integration is a big issue in micro-nanorobot design. Various integration methods have been reported to address different kinds of problems in single cell analysis. For the research in an open environment, such as single cell injection and mechanical characterization, it is easy to find extra space for the auxiliary equipment. The micro-nanomanipulators can be fixed on the microscopy stage and connected with the auxiliary equipment in other places by electrical wires. Contrarily, for the single cell analysis in a closed environment, it is difficult to connect wires directly.

In this case, wireless actuation methods are usually used, such as optical tweezers and DEP. However, the wireless connection method brings difficulties to force sensing, because there is no force sensor and the force has to be estimated from the deformation of the object or the applied voltage indirectly. The lack of force information in this integration system increases the control difficulty to the micro-nanorobot. They fabricated the magnetic-sensitive microtool based on MEMS technique.

Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques
Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques
Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques
Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques
Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques
Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques
Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques Nanorobotics: Current Approaches and Techniques

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