Each year, MIT Technology Review culls through hundreds of nominations to select 35 young researchers, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and humanitarians “whose superb technical work promises to shape the coming decades.”
Marc Miskin, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, is among the 35 such individuals on this year’s list.
Named to the “Pioneers” category, Miskin’s innovations come in the design and control of microscopic robots. Techniques used to manufacture computer chips can make robot bodies and brains en masse, but in order for those robots to move on their own, Miskin and his colleagues had to devise ways of supplying power and flexing actuators on a device smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.
MIT Technology Review’s Jonathan W. Rosen described Miskin’s key development:
His technique fabricates legs from sheets of platinum a dozen or so atoms thick, capped on one side with an even smaller layer of titanium. When activated with a current—generated by solar cells attached to the robot brain—the platinum bends, causing the bot to march forward. Miskin’s initial prototype, which he developed as a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University, requires only one-fifth of a volt to move and measures just 40 by 40 microns—smaller than many single-celled microorganisms. It’s recognized by Guinness World Records as the smallest ever walking robot, and a million of them at a time can be fabricated on a single 10-centimeter wafer.
Miskin’s work on microscopic robots has also earned him a Sloan Fellowship and a pair of Young Investigator Awards, as well as a trip to the TED stage.
Read about the other “35 Innovators Under 35” at MIT Technology Review.