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## Microbots Made of Bubbles Are Controlled By Lasers51

Posted by Soulskill
from the fantastic-voyage dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Hawaii have turned bubbles of gas into non-mechanical 'microbots' that they propel and steer with a laser. The laser heats up specific areas of the fluid that the bubble are in, and temperature gradients push the fluid towards the hot area, moving the bubble along. By using an array of lasers, the researchers can control the speed and direction of multiple bubble bots independently; this capability is not possible with other types of microbots, such as those controlled by a magnetic field, which affects all robots simultaneously. The University of Hawaii researchers hope their non-mechanical microbots can be used to assemble and manipulate microscopic structures, including live cells. In one experiment, they used the bubble bots to position 100-m-diameter glass beads to form the letters 'UH.'"
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## Microbots Made of Bubbles Are Controlled By Lasers

• #### Sharks (Score:1)

Sharks with lasers?
• #### Re: (Score:1)

Herding schools of bubble-bots
• #### Re:Sharks (Score:4, Insightful)

on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:58PM (#40081677)

I'm wondering where the point is when a bubble all of a sudden becomes a robot.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Uh... I think that the qualification for "robot" is "autonomy".

Only morons think a strictly remote controlled device is a "robot".

Battlebots were fancy R.C. cars.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

There's some leeway there. For example, industrial robots [wikipedia.org]. Many of them just repeat sequences, and have only very basic branching conditions, if any. Then there's the TALON [wikipedia.org] robots, which are mostly RC as well, but are still considered "robots". Demolition robots also come to mind, which, again, are strictly RC.
• #### Re: (Score:2)

Industrial robots are automatons, and thus qualify for the title of "robot".

Are they smart? No.

Are they sentient? Define "sentience".

Are they autonomous? Yes.

TALON and similar "robots" are robot in name only, name being given by companies that make fancy RC cars used for bomb disposal or demolition.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Uh... I think you're wrong. Unless you think JEL [jel-robot.com] and Brooks Automation [brooks.com] are not in the business of making robots.

Or maybe you can't count past one in Merriam Webster's definition. [merriam-webster.com] You're either an idiot or a troll, or perhaps a little bit of both, hmm?
• #### Re: (Score:2)

On both of those company websites, they focus on AUTOMATION.

AUTONOMOUS ROBOTS.

Not fancy RC cars.

Automated industrial robots are truly robots. They are self-willed within the constraints imposed upon them by their programmers, but do not require an actual person to perform their assigned tasks.

• #### Re: (Score:1)

I'm wondering where the point is when a bubble all of a sudden becomes a robot.

If their bubbles can manipulate physical objects according to a program then its a robot.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

If a bubble pushed by a laser is a robot, a chopstick is a restaurant.

• #### Re: (Score:3)

If their bubbles can manipulate physical objects according to a program then its a robot.

The bubble doesn't manipulate anything, the bubble doesn't execute software or follow a program. It's a bubble. It's a space filled with some gas suspended inside a liquid. The laser heats the liquid, the liquid moves, and the bubble moves with the liquid. If I throw a ball, and that ball hits something, say a "physical object", and it "manipulates" that object, is the ball now a robot?

• #### Re: (Score:2)

The bubble doesn't manipulate anything

Nooope. From TFA: "This level of control allows for very fine manipulation of small objects, and the picture below shows how a bubble robot has pushed glass beads around to form the letters "UH"

the bubble doesn't execute software or follow a program.

I think it's safe to assume those lasers are computer controlled, given they are using the term "robot" and some other obvious issues. Having the computing and control infrastructure external to the manipulator doesn't stop it from being a robot, it just becomes a remote controlled robot!

If I throw a ball, and that ball hits something, say a "physical object", and it "manipulates" that object, is the ball now a robot?

Think outside the bubble!

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Are you missing my point or being deliberately obtuse?

I think it's safe to assume those lasers are computer controlled, given they are using the term "robot" and some other obvious issues. Having the computing and control infrastructure external to the manipulator doesn't stop it from being a robot, it just becomes a remote controlled robot!

So that's my question, when does the bubble stop becoming a robot? Is it still a robot when the laser is off, or is it just a bubble then? What if the liquid isn't moving, it's just a liquid with bubbles in it. Are they still robots? Is my bottle full of robots? If I shoot a laser through my beer have I just created robots?

The lasers are what's important here. The bubbles are just along for the ride, as it were. The bubbles are passive. The liqui

• #### Re: (Score:1)

All of the things this machine can do relate to the surface tension in the bubbles. Without that, you'd just be shining lights into a bottle. That's why the bubble is a remote controlled robot.
• #### Re: (Score:2)

All of the things this machine can do relate to the surface tension in the bubbles.

I could just as easily say that all of the things this machine can do relate to the lasers heating the liquid.

• #### Overlord fail (Score:2)

Eventually, it may be possible to conjure swarms of microscopic bubble robots out of nothing, set them to work building microstructures with an array of thermal lasers, and then when they're finished, give each one a little pop to wipe it completely out of existence without any mess or fuss.

Take that you little SOBs. Kind of an interesting opportunity to use massively parallel processing though.

• #### Big bubbles... (Score:3)

on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:38PM (#40081525)
Moving 100m bubbles around with lasers. That's pretty impressive...
• #### Re: (Score:2)

Hope they aren't breaking any strategic weapons treaties with those oversized lasers.
• #### Re: (Score:3)

I hope they aren't breaking any strategic weapons treaties with those beads!

You know China is just going to come up with a 150m bead, and the US will have to respond. Pretty soon it's going to be one Mardi Gras mistake away from world destruction.

• #### 100-m-diameter glass beads? (Score:3)

on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:38PM (#40081527) Homepage

I think that a chunk of glass about 30 stories high can be called a "bead"... Losely... ;-)

Or, I think that letter \mu got lost while this story was flowing through ether, more likely!

Paul B.

• #### Re: (Score:1)

by Anonymous Coward
M=meter, m=micron
• #### Re:100-m-diameter glass beads? (Score:5, Informative)

on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:56PM (#40081657)
Er, no. M = mega. m = meter. Micron usually uses the abbreviation (mu, which slashdot refuses to print), and where you can't use mu for some reason some texts cheat by using the letter u. You, however, are dead wrong..
• #### Re: (Score:1)

by Anonymous Coward

M=meter, m=micron

Actually, m=meter. micrometer aka micron is m.

• #### Re: (Score:1)

by Anonymous Coward

M=meter, m=micron

Actually, m=meter. micrometer aka micron is m.

Well, there is the problem. ./ doesn't seem to show the lowercase mu, thus um turns into m

• #### Re: (Score:2)

yea, a person can spend hours on this stuff [regenstrief.org]
• #### I hope the glass beads are not 100 meters in size (Score:2)

Apparently browsers cannot handle the Greek mu for micron (maybe they can!). Anyway, isn't micron a deprecated unit? Nanometers nm are in, microns are out.
• #### Re:I hope the glass beads are not 100 meters in si (Score:4, Funny)

on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:55PM (#40081655)

if( fashion joke )
{
whoosh( Beardo );
}
else
{
nanometers = 10^-9;
micrometer = 10^-6;
micron = micrometer;
}

• #### Re: (Score:1)

So why not say 0.1mm, using a unit familiar to the audience and discernable on a standard ruler?

Instead they said 100 metres, which are sodding big balls.

• #### Microbots? (Score:2)

by Anonymous Coward

Nice results, but why allude to the bubbles as robots (microbots)?

• #### Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

Because entitling it "moving microbubbles with light" wouldn't get many hits.
• #### Re: (Score:3)

Marketing has to use buzzwords, even if they dont apply.

• #### And I (Score:2)

...for one, welcome our new microbot bubble overlords.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Well, the title of the actual article is "Microbots Made of Bubbles Have Engines Made of Lasers" which sounds even cooler to me. :-P

This reminds me of when IBM did something similar with a fancy electron microscope [ibm.com] or something like that quite a while back.

Doing it with bubbles and lasers sounds totally cool, and makes me really want to see the first mechanical application of this. That's gotta get you something seriously cool, right?

• #### Flowbots (Score:1)

I think I have an album for their youtube demo.
• #### Can they be automated? (Score:1)

It appeared in the video that a single bubble was being manipulated by hand with a laser pointer. That's cool, but I was hoping to see perhaps a few hundred bubbles, with computer controlled precision scattering of the laser. Each bubble would be maneuvered in a very precise, computer controlled manner and the bubbles collaborating to perform specific functions. Is this the next step?
• #### Re: (Score:2)

The next step is Chaos(tm) tracking [mobygames.com] technology.

• #### Tiny bubbles? (Score:1)

Don Ho is SO mad right now. I smell a lawsuit coming.
• #### Re: (Score:2)

i expected a powerpuff girls reference from someone in this crowd.
• #### How visible are the lasers? (Score:2)

This looks like a tech that could be used to run a proper volumetric display. If you used glass beads of different colours, or found a way to make them fluoresce (perhaps by energizing an internal gas, or phosphor coating, or something?), you might be able to come up with something a fair bit more impressive than just "UM".

A real volumetric display would certainly have a lot of applications. I'm sure the military would love it for battlefield visualisations, etc.

• #### Number 8? (Score:2)

The big question is can these bubble bots be used to keep number 8 in the village and prevent him from escaping?
• #### hey, we can move bubbles with lasers! (Score:2)

Scientist A: "Hey, we can move bubbles with lasers."

Scientist B: "That's pretty boring. But robotics is hot. Maybe we can get press coverage if we call the 'bubbles' 'robots'."

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