Building the World’s Smallest Robot

March 12, 2024
Stoney's British Pub

3007 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE

Marc Miskin / Building the World's Smallest Robot Marc Miskin
University of Pennsylvania
Building the World's Smallest Robot

Nature routinely makes smart, complex, yet microscopically tiny machines: cells. But how can humans do it for ourselves? And can we do it in a way that is easy to design and understand? After making microelectronics at smaller and smaller sizes, some of the pieces to address this puzzle are falling into place. Today, it’s possible to pack nearly 1 million circuit components in the space of a paramecium, enabling tiny systems for sensing, communication, and computation. This radical miniaturization of electronics has brought with it the incredible opportunity to reimagine life in the microworld: put together the right way, these parts could be used to build robotic creatures too small to be seen by the naked eye. My group tries to realize this vision. Currently, we hold the Guinness world record for tiniest robot: a smart, programmable machine ten times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. This talk is about how that machine came to life and what these tiny machines do, both in the lab and in applications.