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New research shows that microscale robots can be made from shape shifting 2D sheets. Itai Cohen and Itay Griniasty of Cornell University in the US have developed a mathematical technique for encoding the motion cycle of a tiny robot onto the surface of a flat material. Working alongside Cyrus Mostajeran of the UK’s University of Cambridge, they believe that their work will make it possible to design microscale swimming robots from materials such as liquid crystal elastomers and hydrogels.

Cohen is confident that microscale robots will one day perform many of the same tasks as their macroscale counterparts. He believes however, that at the micro and nanoscale, “We have to completely reimagine the way that we make machines”.

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