Tiny self-folding origami robot walks, swims, and then dissolves

MIT researchers are at it again. This time, a joint research team with TU Munich has developed a self-folding origami robot capable of a range of tasks. The robot can even self-destruct after it completes its mission. The tiny device starts completely flat, and is made from ultra-thin laser-cut polystyrene layers that sandwich a magnet and PVC. The self-folding process is instigated by placing the tiny machine over a heating element. The PVC then contracts along the laser-cut lines, creating folds. The robot weighs only 0.31g and is 1.7cm long, laid flat. It can "walk" at a top speed of 4 cm per second.

The odd, complex origami shape allows the robot to harness the oscillation of its electromagnetic power and turn it into a walking motion. The design utilizes a balance point that is intentionally off-center, forcing the momentum into a forward walk.

The device can do more than just walk, it can swim, dig, and carry an object twice its weight. The robot is not currently autonomous. When it avoids objects (as seen in the video) it generates pre-programmed magnetic fields to move around a trajectory path.

Finally, the robot can complete its "life cycle" by dissolving in a pool of acetone, leaving only the original magnet behind. The researchers also made a similar robot with a structural layer made of paper that can dissolve in water.

Check out the diminutive origami robot for yourself:

Source: IEEE Spectrum