Scientists out of Cornell University have created the world’s smallest origami bird.
“So this is a bird that folds up and its full footprint is smaller than a hair diameter,” said Itai Cohen, professor of physics at Cornell University. “The origami that you make is only as small as the thickness of the paper that you use. And so in order to make origami designs at the micro-scale, you have to use paper that is 10,000 times thinner than a normal sheet of paper.”
The material their origami bird is made out of is about 30 atoms thick.
“Our group has been working over the past few years to develop these kinds of papers, and then an additional challenge that we had to solve was that we can’t really shrink origami artists down to the micro-scale,” Cohen said.
So, how do you fold such paper? The tiny bird folds itself using nanotechnology.
“We don’t have nano-screwdrivers or tiny technicians that can go in and fix parts together,” Cohen said. “So instead, we have to fabricate the computer chip, which would be the brains of the machine, have to fabricate again in 2D using the same technology, a sheet that can then fold itself up and become the three-dimensional structure.”
The creators hope microscopic robots like the origami bird will eventually become as advanced as the macro robotics that assist us daily. They believe this technology could lead to more precise surgical robots for delicate procedures.
“Our group is interested in the fundamental principles, the science principles behind shrinking machines in terms of their design, their fabrication, and operation down to the micro-scale,” Cohen said.
Cohen hopes developments like the world’s smallest origami bird will lead to the same level of robot function on the micro scale. “Could we have a micro factory that transforms the way we make things and develop surgical robotic instruments that can perform more delicate surgeries on scales smaller by a factor of ten than what we can currently do?”