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Tiny robots may monitor underground pipes for radioactive leaks

July 22, 2011

A spherical robot equipped with a camera can navigate the underground pipes of a nuclear reactor by propelling itself with an internal network of valves and pumps (credit: Harry Asada/MIT d'Arbeloff Laboratory)

Researchers at MIT are working on small, egg-sized robots designed to dive into nuclear reactors and swim through underground pipes, checking for signs of corrosion. The underwater patrollers, equipped with cameras, are able to withstand a reactor’s extreme, radioactive environment, transmitting images via wireless in real time.

They devised a special valve for switching the direction of a flow with a tiny change in pressure and embedded… read more

Tiny robots used in surgical procedures

January 13, 2009

Tiny robots that aid surgical procedures and medical checkups currently are the focus of intense research and study, and some already are in practical use.

Tiny ruler to measure macromolecular movement

June 17, 2011


Paul Alivisatos of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and colleagues have designed a first-of-its-kind ruler capable of measuring the configuration and movement of macromolecules, such as DNA.

The researchers constructed an “H”-shaped device out of five gold nanorods, the length and position of each of which could be controlled. They then looked for changes in spectra associated with plasmon coupling — the tendency… read more

Tiny scales weigh virus

February 11, 2004

Purdue University scientists have developed a scale that can weigh a 10 femtograms virus.

It uses a laser beam to measure the variation of wobble of a 30 nanometer-thick silicom springboard from the virus. Coating the springboard with antibodies will allow onlyone particular type of virus to stick to the scales. Such detectors could one day be used to monitor air purity in hospital or to assist in security… read more

Tiny sensor detects a mouse heart’s magnetic pulse

November 2, 2007

An atomic magnetometer not much bigger than a grain of rice can detect magnetic fields as weak as 70 femtoteslas — about a billionth of the Earth’s magnetic field, using optical magnetometry.

The detectors are even sensitive enough to detect alpha waves from the human brain and generate magnetocardiograms that provide information similar to an electrocardiogram (ECG), without requiring electrodes on the patient’s body.

Tiny sensors to be implanted in hearts

January 24, 2002

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation will begin implanting tiny, experimental microchip sensors into the hearts of patients, hoping the wireless, battery-less devices will provide early warnings of danger.

The device can give doctors daily reports on pressure in the heart chambers. A change in pressure is one of the first events that occurs when patients with congestive heart failure start the slide toward hospitalization.

The micro-electrical mechanical… read more

Tiny swimming ‘biobots’ propelled by heart cells or magnetic fields

January 21, 2014

Sperm attack

University of Illinois engineers have developed tiny “bio-bot” hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own, according to the engineers.

The devices are modeled after single-celled creatures with long tails called flagella — for example, sperm. The researchers begin by creating the body of the bio-bot from a flexible polymer. Then they culture heart cells… read more

Tiny technology hasn’t hit the big time — yet

August 25, 2003

UC Berkeley and Intel researchers are developing TinyDB database technology to acquire information from a network of tiny wireless sensors.

Wireless sensor networks can be used to predict equipment malfunction, prompt users to take medication, and perform environment and habitat monitoring. In 10 years, they will be nanoscale devices.

Because of energy constraints, sensor motes have to deal with low bandwidth and possibly intermittent communication links; they must… read more

Tiny technology, big ideas

January 20, 2003

Imagine never having to polish your shoes again, having glistening white teeth without visiting a dentist, or owning a mobile phone powered by a miniature battery. Researchers are developing nanotechnology-based solutions to achieve these and other breakthroughs.

Tiny tubes squeeze electricity from water

October 21, 2003

An entirely new way of generating electricity has been discovered.

How it works: you squeeze water through fine channels. The surface of the channel walls becomes charged, which builds up a charge on opposite ends of the channel, generating an electrical current when connected.

Tiny variation in one gene may have led to crucial changes in human brain

May 16, 2011

Occipital Region

A tiny variation within a single gene may determine the formation of brain convolutions, the deep fissures and convolutions that increase its surface area and allow for rational and abstract thoughts, researchers at Yale University have discovered.

A genetic analysis of a Turkish patient whose brain lacks the characteristic convolutions in part of his cerebral cortex revealed that the deformity was caused by the deletion… read more

Tiny whiskers make huge memory storage

February 3, 2003

New, tiny magnetic sensors could help break a technical barrier to ushering in the next generation of computer disk storage capacity.

The sensors, filaments of nickel thinner than a wavelength of visible light, are capable of detecting extremely weak magnetic fields using a phenomenon called “ballistic magnetoresistance.”

The sensors also could be used to detect biomolecules.

Tiny wireless LED activates neurons to release dopamine

April 15, 2013

This implantable LED light can activate brain cells to release dopamine and is smaller than the eye of a needle (credit: John A Rogers, Ph.D. and Michael R. Bruchas, Ph.D./Washington University in St. Louis)

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed tiny devices containing light-emitting diodes (LEDs) the size of individual neurons that activate brain cells with light.

“This strategy should allow us to identify and map brain circuits involved in complex behaviors related to sleep, depression, addiction, and anxiety,” says co-principal investigator Michael R. Bruchas, PhD, assistant… read more

Tinyest fuel cell generates power from bacteria

June 24, 2011

Four microbial fuel cells (credit: Kelvin Gregory, Carnegie Mellon University)

A tiny biological fuel cell, the smallest of its kind (0.3 microliters), has been built by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), powered by bacteria.

The new device, the size of a single strand of human hair, generates energy from the metabolism of bacteria on thin gold plates in micro-manufactured channels.

The bacteria create a biofilm that uses natural organic compounds as fuel to generate power.… read more

Tips for improving cardiac-arrest survival

November 16, 2009

Science Daily reports two important tips for improving cardiac arrest victims’ chances of survival:

- Use continuous chest compressions without stopping for mouth-to-mouth breathing (Continuous Chest Compression-CPR Improved Cardiac Arrest Survival in Arizona)

- Cool the brain: RhinoChill, for use by emergency medical technicians, is approved for marketing in Europe (Early Cooling in Cardiac Arrest May Improve Survival)

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