Shape-memory actuators allow machines ranging from robots to medical implants to hold their form without continuous power, a feature especially advantageous for situations where these devices are untethered and power is limited. Although previous work has demonstrated shape-memory actuators using polymers, alloys, and ceramics, the need for micrometer-scale electro–shape-memory actuators remains largely unmet, especially ones that can be driven by standard electronics (~1 volt). Here, we report on a new class of fast, high-curvature, low-voltage, reconfigurable, micrometer-scale shape-memory actuators. They function by the electrochemical oxidation/reduction of a platinum surface, creating a strain in the oxidized layer that causes bending. They bend to the smallest radius of curvature of any electrically controlled microactuator (~500 nanometers), are fast (<100-millisecond operation), and operate inside the electrochemical window of water, avoiding bubble generation associated with oxygen evolution. We demonstrate that these shape-memory actuators can be used to create basic electrically reconfigurable microscale robot elements including actuating surfaces, origami-based three-dimensional shapes, morphing metamaterials, and mechanical memory elements. Our shape-memory actuators have the potential to enable the realization of adaptive microscale structures, bio-implantable devices, and microscopic robots.
Magnetic bio-hybrid micro actuators
Over the past two decades, there has been a growing body of work on wireless devices that can operate on the length scales of biological cells and even smaller. A class of these devices receiving increasing attention are referred to as bio-hybrid actuators: tools that integrate biological cells or subcellular parts with synthetic or inorganic components. These devices are commonly controlled through magnetic manipulation as magnetic fields and gradients can be generated with a high level of control. Recent work has demonstrated that magnetic bio-hybrid actuators can address common challenges in small scale fabrication, control, and localization. Additionally, it is becoming apparent that these magnetically driven bio-hybrid devices can display high efficiency and, in many cases, have the potential for self-repair and even self-replication. Combining these properties with magnetically driven forces and torques, which can be transmitted over significant distances, can be highly controlled, and are biologically safe, gives magnetic bio-hybrid actuators significant advantages over other classes of small scale actuators. In this review, we describe the theory and mechanisms required for magnetic actuation, classify bio-hybrid actuators by their diverse organic components, and discuss their current limitations. Insights into the future of coupling cells and cell-derived components with magnetic materials more »
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