13 May 2016 Ultraflexible nanostructures and implications for future nanorobots
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Several high aspect ratio nanostructures have been made by capillary force directed self-assembly including polymeric nanofiber air-bridges, trampoline-like membranes, microsphere-beaded nanofibers, and intermetallic nanoneedles. Arrays of polymer air-bridges form in seconds by simply hand brushing a bead of polymeric liquid over an array of micropillars. The domination of capillary force that is thinning unstable capillary bridges leads to uniform arrays of nanofiber air-bridges. Similarly, arrays of vertically oriented Ag2Ga nanoneedles have been formed by dipping silvercoated arrays of pyramidal silicon into melted gallium. Force-displacement measurements of these structures are presented. These nanostructures, especially when compressively or torsionally buckled, have extremely low stiffnesses, motion due to thermal fluctuations that is relatively easily detected, and the ability to move great distances for very small changes in applied force. Nanofibers with bead-on-a-string structure, where the beads are micron diameter and loaded with magnetic iron oxide (maghemite), are shown to be simply viewable under optical microscopes, have micronewton/ m stiffness, and have ultralow torsional stiffnesses enabling the bead to be rotated numerous revolutions without breaking. Combination of these high aspect ratio structures with stretched elastomers offer interesting possibilities for robotic actuation and locomotion. Polydimethylsiloxane loaded with nanomaterials, e.g. nanotubes, graphene or MoS2, can be efficiently heated with directed light. Heating produces considerable force through the thermoelastic effect, and this force can be used for continuous translation or to trigger reversible elastic buckling of the nanostructures. The remote stimulation of motion with light provides a possible mechanism for producing cooperative behavior between swarms of semiautonomous nanorobots.
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Robert W. Cohn, Robert W. Cohn, Balaji Panchapakesan, Balaji Panchapakesan, "Ultraflexible nanostructures and implications for future nanorobots", Proc. SPIE 9859, Sensors for Next-Generation Robotics III, 98590B (13 May 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2237877; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2237877

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