Engineers build magnet-controlled sperm-like robot

A team of robotics engineers have successfully designed and tested a tiny robot that consists of a metal-coated head and a flexible body about six times longer than a human sperm.

The simple designed robot can be guided with the help of a magnetic field.

Engineers used the magnetic field comparable to that of a fridge magnet to make the robot “swim” forward and steered it towards a fixed point.

The findings of the study, published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, can be of immense use in medical and manufacturing applications.


According to Dr Sarthak Misra, a robotics engineer at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, “We have built a biologically inspired micro-robot that looks like a sperm cell but is completely fabricated in the lab.”

The new gadget has been manufactured from a strong but flexible polymer, with a metal layer painted onto its head using a technique called electron beam evaporation. That metal element is forced in different directions when the device is placed into a moving field, produced by the coils of an electromagnet.

The magnetic head of the tiny robot is used to orient it in a certain direction and then, just by flapping its tail, it starts to move forward. The flapping is induced by changing the current in the coils. The technique is similar to the mode of movement employed by many bacteria.