The researchers believe that the “microfish” will open the way to smart microrobots that can be used for detoxification, sensing and drug delivery.
The fish are powered by hydrogen peroxide and magnetism and so far existing microfish are limited by their designs.
The team built microfish that include functional nanoparticles into the bodies of the robots which react with hydrogen peroxide to propel them forwards, while in their heads are iron oxide nanoparticles, which can be steered by magnets.
Wei Zhu, a nanoengineering PhD student at UC San Diego, said the microfish are smaller than the width of a human hair. “With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications,” Zhu said.
The researchers believe that medicines could be encapsulated inside the robots to deliver drugs directly to regions of the body.
The researchers use a fast high res 3D printing technology which allows them to print arrays of hundreds of microfish 120 microns long and 30 microns thick in seconds.