Monday, January 17, 2005

Cyborg Rat Cell-Silicon Chips

Biology Meets Microchips to Make Tiny Robots

How to make self-assembling silicon-organic machines. So let's imagine if these little moving devices were grown on mesh like little skin-jackets (see Cyborg Couture): if the mesh form was shaped like a whole body, we could make self-assembling cyborg homunculi. Add a little microprocessor head, and you've got a baby cyborg-Frankenstein. Here's a Quicktime movie (8MB) of the device. Here's the article by Jianzhong Xi, Jacob J. Schmidt and Carlo D. Montemagno: "Self-assembled microdevices driven by muscle" (Nature Materials 16 January 2005).

Here's the press release:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rat cells grown onto microscopic silicon chips worked as tiny robots, perhaps a first step toward a self-assembling device, researchers working in the United States reported on Sunday.

They described a new method for attaching living cells to silicon chips. They then and got the combined entities to move like tiny, primitive legs.

Writing in the journal Nature Materials, Jianzhong Xi, Jacob Schmidt and Carlo Montemagno of the University of California Los Angeles said it is possible to make such devices, starting with a single cell 'seeded' on a specially treated silicon chip.

They used rat heart cells in one experiment and created a tiny device that moved on its own as the cells contracted.

A second device looked like a minuscule pair of frog legs.

'A microdevice had two 'legs' extending from the body at 45-degree angles; each leg had a 'foot' extending at a 45-degree angle,' the researchers wrote.

It may eventually be possible to grow self-assembling machines using the method, they said."


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