EU-funded NanoHand project uses mobile microrobots equipped with delicate handling tools. NanoHand builds on the work of ROBOSEM, an earlier EU project that developed the basic technologies that are now being put into effect. The robots, about two centimetres in size, work inside a scanning electron microscope where their activities can be followed by an observer. Each robot has a ‘microgripper’ that can make precise and delicate movements. It works on an electrothermal principle to open and close the jaws, much like a pair of tweezers.
The jaws open to about 2 micrometres and can pick up objects less than 100 nanometres in size. “[It is] really able to grip micro or even nano objects,” Eichhorn says. “We have handled objects down to tens of nanometres.”