Fight Against Disease with 3D Printed Micro-Fish Robots

August 29, 2015

Written by Marco Chiappetta Via Forbes.com

Professors Shaochen Chen and Joseph Wang of the Nano Engineering Department at the University of California, San Diego have 3D printed tiny robots – thinner than the width of a human hair — they’re calling micro-fish, that may one day be used to treat a variety of human ailments.

These micro-fish aren’t printed using off-the-shelf 3D printers, however. To create their micro-fish, the team at UC San Diego used a bleeding-edge, high-resolution 3D printing technology called microscale continuous optical printing, or μCOP, which was developed in Professor Chen’s lab. μCOP 3D printing technology leverages an array of 2 million micro-mirrors called a DMD (digital micro-mirror array device). The mirrors in the array are individually controlled to direct beams of UV light at a photosensitive material. When the UV light hits the material, it solidifies and can take virtually any shape, like a fish for example.

The 3D printed micro-fish on their own are akin to simple delivery vehicles or frames. But Chen and Wang affixed platinum nanoparticles to the fishes’ tails, which react with hydrogen peroxide, and can be used to push the fish forward.Magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles affixed to the heads of the fish were also used to help steer the fish with the aid of magnets. With the heads and tails of the micro-fish configured for propulsion, the bodies can be used to deliver other substances.

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