Special Chemical Engineering Seminar
This talk outlines a new approach for fabricating cell-sized machines that can freely explore space, interact with their environment, be manufactured en masse, and carry the full power of modern information technology. The starting point for these devices is origami in the extreme limit of atomic thickness: we make actuators from 2D membranes, like graphene, that can bend to micron radii of curvature. By patterning rigid panels on top of these actuators, we can localize bending to produce folds, and scale down existing origami patterns to produce a wide range of machines. These machines change shape in fractions of a second in response to environmental stimuli, can carry a range of electronic, chemical, and photonics payloads, and perform useful functions on time and length scales comparable to biological microorganisms. Moreover, working at the nanoscale presents fundamental scientific insight about the chemical and mechanical properties of materials with vanishing thickness and the efficiency of atomically thin machines. Finally, we move beyond simple stimuli by fabricating voltage responsive actuators that can be powered with onboard photovoltaics. We demonstrate that these mechanical technologies can be combined with silicon-based electronics, moving towards a complete platform for autonomous robotics at the cellular scale.