Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Getting a Grip on the World's Smallest Robotic Hand


The world's smallest robotic hand, which can make a fist that can grasp objects smaller than a millimeter across, has been developed by Yen-Wen Lu and Chang-Jin(CJ) Kim of UCLA's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department .

The microhand hand has four fingers built of miniscule silicon segments and polymer-balloon joints, giving the hand a firm but gentle grip that the researchers claim would be ideal for manipulating tiny, delicate objects. In fact, in a (somewhat creepy) video on CJ Kim's website, they show a close-up of the microhand delicately plucking what appears to be a single fish egg from a glob of roe.

The hand opens and closes when the balloons in the joints are inflated and deflated. Because it is built of inert materials and is pneumatically rather than electrically operated, the microhand works well in air or liquid, making it handy (pardon the pun) for grasping small biological samples, which are often moist or in liquid environments.

Lu and Kim described their robot hand in the article Microhand for biological applications, which was published October 16 in the American Institute of Physics journal Applied Physics Letters.

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