Microrobots and nanobots will take an important place in our lives in the future with infrastructure repairs, aircraft engine repairs and drug delivery within the body.
A new UK government-sponsored project, if successful, will have microrobots crawling under road pavements to detect and repair leaking pipes and faulty wiring. Thus, there will be no need for excavation work, which costs billions of pounds every year. The traffic, which had to be stopped due to these works, will not be affected by the repair works at all.
Around 1.5 million excavations are carried out in the UK each year. Most of these are due to leaks from pipes or problems with underground cables. Repairs, excavations, traffic stoppages and businesses being unable to operate are costing the country £6.3 billion (42.6 billion lira).
Two different types of microrobots
Professor at the University of Sheffield. A consortium of scientists led by Kirill Horoshenkov plans to have microrobots eliminate most of those costs. The group received £7.2m funding to develop the robots. Horoshenkov says there will be two versions of the microrobots. The first will be an inspector robot. These robots will navigate the underground infrastructure and monitor its condition with the help of sonar. Inspectors will be assisted by worker robots. These robots will carry cement, adhesive and cleaning materials with them and intervene where necessary. Supervisor robots will be one centimeter long and move autonomously. Worker robots will also be slightly larger and remotely controlled.
If this system is successful, bots will contribute around £5bn (£33.8bn) per year to the UK economy. The UK government has also allocated a total of £19m in funding to research robots that can operate in hazardous environments such as nuclear spills, use drones for oil pipeline surveillance and identify the need for repairs to orbiting satellites with artificial intelligence software.
They can also be used in different fields.
Microrobots have many potential advantages and uses. Thanks to their small size, they can get through tight spaces and can perform many different functions in collaboration with robot swarm technology. To date, the use of microrobots has generally been limited, but that may soon change.
Engineering company Rolls-Royce (the company that manufactures aircraft engines, not cars) plans to develop a system where microrobots can inspect the 25,000 parts that make up the engine. The microbots will use a cockroach as a model. Rolls-Royce believes this system will save engineers time when performing maintenance checks. Normally, a maintenance check can take longer than a month.
Nanobots will serve our bodies
If we scale down even further, we’ve seen some success with nanobots in recent years as well. For example, a team from the Femto-ST Institute has built the world’s smallest house using nanobots. The height of this house is 0.015 millimeters.
Another area where nanobots show great promise is medicine. Some studies have shown how tiny robots can deliver drugs into dense biological tissues. Getting here directly is normally quite a challenge. Such delivery systems show promise for developing effective treatments for many diseases, including cancer.
There is no doubt that ecosystems of microbots or nanobots will evolve. The above achievements indicate that there will be an explosion in the field of small robots in the near future. In a short time, we can talk about these robots as our little helpers.
In the future, microrobots and nanobots will take an important place in our lives with infrastructure repairs, aircraft engine repairs and drug delivery within the body. The UK aims to make a profit of £5 billion a year by fixing infrastructure problems without digging with its new microrobot system. Rolls-Royce plans to hand over the inspection and maintenance of aircraft engines, whose maintenance takes more than a month, to micro robots. Nanobots that will carry drugs to the point where they are needed in our body will soon be used in the treatment of many diseases, including cancer.