The robots operate by carrying out chemical reactions in special solutions which can then be controlled and programmed by scientists to perform the basic tasks.
According to the University of Manchester, such robots could in future be used for medical purposes, advanced manufacturing processes and even building molecular factories and assembly lines.
‘Our robot is literally a molecular robot constructed of atoms just like you can build a very simple robot out of Lego bricks. The robot then responds to a series of simple commands that are programmed with chemical inputs by a scientist,” said Professor David Leigh, who led the research at University’s School of Chemistry.
“Just like the robot in [a car] factory, our molecular version can be programmed to position and rivet components in different ways to build different products, just on a much smaller scale at a molecular level,’ he added.
Whilst building and operating such tiny machine is extremely complex, the techniques used by the team are said to be based on simple chemical processes.
“The robots are assembled and operated using chemistry,” said Leigh. “This is the science of how atoms and molecules react with each other and how larger molecules are constructed from smaller ones.
“It is the same sort of process scientists use to make medicines and plastics from simple chemical building blocks. Then, once the nano-robots have been constructed, they are operated by scientists by adding chemical inputs which tell the robots what to do and when, just like a computer program.”