back to article Watch it go: World's smallest self-folding origami bird that reminds us we were promised nanobots at some point

Measuring just 60 microns across – about the width of a single strand of human hair – the world’s smallest self-folding origami bird is a feat of engineering. All it takes is a zap of positive voltage to get the tiny sheet of atoms to automatically curl up into a bird-like shape in 100 milliseconds. It’ll continue to hold its …

  1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Fascinating

    Wonderful work

  2. jake Silver badge

    And thus ...

    ... we move one step closer to grey goo.

    Potentially, anyway. No, I don't think it'll really happen.

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: And thus ...

      If they build a nano-bird that lays eggs, then I'll start worrying...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: And thus ...

        They'll need a nano-rooster for the eggs to be viable.

        IOW, you'll have nothing to worry about unless the hen gets laid before laying.

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: And thus ...

          Well obviously they'll need a nano-rooster, but that will just come from one of the nano eggs.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: And thus ...

            Shirley the egg would have to come from a nano neo-dinosaur?

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: And thus ...

              Which comes first, though?

              1. Powderfinger
                Linux

                Re: And thus ...

                That is easy. The fertilized egg came first. It had to in order to be the first chicken, Nano or naught. Individual organisms do not evolve. Whatever was before the chicken was a proto-chicken. The crossing of the fowl lineage during mating resulted in enough mutation to cause the embryo in the egg to differ from its progeny. True they could probably still successfully mate but regardless, the chicken was ready to be hatched. Now Jungle Fowl run rampant over the earth from the remote jungles of the world to the golden arches in the biggest cities. Mines the one with the well-ticked bird book in the pocket.

  3. redpawn Silver badge

    .

    That is one thousand origami cranes for good luck. They are flapping their wings just for you.

  4. John Jennings Bronze badge

    could have some practical allications sooner, rather than later

    imagine making tiny ICs in multiple layers that fold into themselves. potentially make circuit boards that self fold into a grain to reduce distances between contacts.

    it could even perhaps interleave as necessary with thermal conductors - to get heat out from between the layers.

    It looks like they can make the hinge with an accuracy of a few atoms.

    Perhaps this is achieved in another way already - IC design is a black art to me, tbh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: could have some practical allications sooner, rather than later

      That's just crazy talk. The kind of talk that leads to innovation!

    2. EarthDog

      Re: could have some practical allications sooner, rather than later

      there may be some heat disappation problems associated with that.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: could have some practical allications sooner, rather than later

        Graphene, the wonder material, should fix that. Insert carbon nanotubes down between the lays and make little tiny fans to blow air down it, one molecule at a time :-)

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: could have some practical allications sooner, rather than later

      may already be done with DLP - not sure how the moving mirrors are created.

      I was thinking NASA applications, solar cells and antennas that unfold and other things of that nature. You'd need to scale up, of course, bigger than 60 microns.

      Electronically tunable SMT inductors and capacitors would be another possibility, with little micro-thingies changing the physical dimensions of the reactive component. Might make it possible to create something with a wider operating range than using a varactor diode.

      Then there are medical uses, maybe artificial muscles and eye lenses and so on.

      now I'm reminded of that Dr. Who episode where someone gets a brain mod that opens up a 'hatch' in your forehead that exposes your brain when you clap, shuts it again with a 2nd clap.

      and, can we build them with FPGA or microcontrollers, to perform complicated autonomous motion? You know, ACTUAL nanobots!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: could have some practical allications sooner, rather than later

        "You'd need to scale up, of course, bigger than 60 microns."

        I don't think the chemistry will work for much thicker/stronger material.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: could have some practical allications sooner, rather than later

          There are already macro-scale "memory" materials too, although I'm not au fait enough with the subject to know if they are easily reversible multiple times.

  5. ZanzibarRastapopulous Silver badge

    Now that's more like it...

    Better than that Mars tank bollocks.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Now that's more like it...

      Oh do fuck off with your anti-Mars-exploration bollocks.

      Have humanity's efforts to understand Mars negatively affected you personally in any way? Or are you just one of those inward-facing idiots who thinks anything beyond the realms of LEO and GEO isn't worth the bother, and feel the need to force your opions down everyone's throat at any and every opportunity?

      FFS at least keep it to topics vaguely related to Mars. Which this is not.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Now that's more like it...

      Some folks prefer to stay in mummy's basement, risking the odd paper cut folding cranes. Others prefer to see if there is a new species of crane over the next mountain.

      Me, I like to think about folding mountains. Spotting cranes is just gravy.

      BTW, it's not a tank. It has no defensive capabilities.

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous Silver badge

        Re: Now that's more like it...

        We already know there's nothing there.

        BTW It can very slowly burn bits off rocks. If there were something there to defend itself against then yes that might be inadequate, but, there is nothing there.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Now that's more like it...

          "We already know there's nothing there."

          Who is "we", Kemosabe?

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Now that's more like it...

      every currency unit spent on space exploration indirectly benefits EVERYONE, and you're getting something for that money, as opposed to tossing it into a black hole of gummint waste, fraud, and abuse.

      History has shown that the invention of the integrated circuit, microprocessors, and even [to some extent] cell phone technology has been driven by the need to miniaturize and run on limited power.

      Large scale integration was VERY expensive at first. ONLY NASA had a budget and a need for it.

      I recommend a study on the Apollo nav computer, how it worked, why it was built entirely with 'nor' gates, what kind of read-only and read-write memory tech they used, how THAT stuff was actually made [that's right - hire women who are good at sewing to string the beads, so to say] and so on. I read about it on wikipedia and other places, found it to be pretty interesting, even intriguing, just what it was they did to make those things work "back then" and how far weve come in our technology since then, MUCH OF WHICH was driven first by space exploration...

      also http://www.righto.com/2019/09/a-computer-built-from-nor-gates-inside.html for a fun read about early computers used by NASA.

      (they would have not built it "that way" were it not for the limited capability of ICs at the time they designed it, but once working, did the job for which it was tasked, and did it well enough.

      "Mad Science" (to the tune of 'Weird Science')

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Now that's more like it...

        "Large scale integration was VERY expensive at first. ONLY NASA had a budget and a need for it."

        That was Small Scale Integration, or SSI .... in the early 1960s defense and aerospace used all that could be produced, a couple million dollars worth. By the mid 1960s, space and defense only used a third of production (a total of over a third of a billion dollars/year worth already!), and SSI had been joined by MSI (Medium Scale). By the time LSI came about with things like 1K RAM chips and early microprocessors (call it 1971ish), the vast bulk of production was for commercial projects.

        They built the AGC "that way" because that was the only way they could be certain it would survive what little we knew about radiation in space. By the time Apollo flew, we had vastly better computer capability on the ground. Hell, some people already had better computers on (or under, or next to) their desks!

  6. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Practical applications?

    Can Raquel Welch and the rest of the crew hitch a ride?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Practical applications?

      It is at this scale that solutions may be found for example to deal with retinal vein occlusion which can lead to sight loss

      1. HildyJ Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Practical applications?

        As one with diabetic retinopathy, I'd volunteer to test it in one of my eyes but I'll be dead before there are actual medical applications being tested.

        While we're waiting, perhaps we need an ElReg unit to replace 'the width of a human hair'. Maybe a 'Boris' (Donald' wouldn't work - his hair has too much product).

        1. Roger Kynaston Silver badge
          Joke

          Regomiser unit for width of hair

          Sadly the Boris would not work as he is a right Johnson. Modesty forbids this baldy from suggesting the Roger

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Re: Regomiser unit for width of hair

            Width of a human hair is too small for it to be tagged with his name - Big Boris thinks BIG

  7. ryokeken

    I wonder the consequences for cat based entertainment

    The dangerous consequences for cat based entertainment are limitless.

  8. Blackjack Silver badge

    The Terminator is in your blood!

    Eventually this will be used to kill someone.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: The Terminator is in your blood!

      One could say the same thing about the first hot water bottle. Or waffle iron.

    2. Colin Bain

      Re: The Terminator is in your blood!

      That was.my second thought. Innocuous ingestion and at the touch of a button it folds into a neurotransmitter or poison. Torture and death and perhaps inadvertent death by static electricity.

      What does that say about us!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: The Terminator is in your blood!

        That we have very large neurotransmitters?

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