Sperm are known for their tenacious ability to swim through fluids to reach their destiny and fertilize an egg. Now researchers have developed a sperm-like microrobot they’ve dubbed MagnetoSperm that can be controlled by a magnetic field no stronger than that from a refrigerator magnet.
Such a tiny device could be used for everything from assembling nanoscale products to delivering drugs inside a person’s bloodstream to cleaning out arteries to — let’s bring this back full circle — fertilizing an egg.
The 322-micron-long robot has a head coated in cobalt-nickel, a magnetic material, and an uncoated tail that whips back and forth just the flagellum on a sperm.
In this week’s issue of Applied Physics Letters, the team of scientists from the University of Twente in the Netherlands and the German University in Cairo reported that when they subjected the robot to an oscillating magnetic field, the head moved and the tail wiggled to propel the body forward. The scientists were able to steer the bot by directing the magnetic field lines toward a specific point.
Currently, the researchers are working to shrink the MagnetoSperm down even more, as well as to develop a magnetic nanofiber that could be used as a flagellum, giving them better control over the robot’s motion.
Credit: I.S.M. Khalil/GUC & S. Misra/U.Twente