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CNC bacteria swarm builds tiny pyramid

Robotics Science
CNC bacteria swarm builds tiny pyramid

Researchers at the NanoRobotics Laboratory of the École Polytechnique de Montréal, under Professor Sylvain Martel, produced this remarkable video showing a swarm of about 5,000 flagellated bacteria–of a type which are subject to manipulation by magnetic fields–being directed to assemble six 100 μm epoxy bricks into the shape of a tiny step pyramid. IEEE Spectrum explains:

The bacteria, of a type known as magnetotactic, contain structures called magnetosomes, which function as a compass. In the presence of a magnetic field, the magnetosomes induce a torque on the bacteria, making them swim according to the direction of the field. Place a magnetic field pointing right and the bacteria will move right. Switch the field to point left and the bacteria will follow suit.

The corresponding paper title is surely one of the best I’ve ever read: “A Robotic Micro-Assembly Process Inspired By the Construction of the Ancient Pyramids and Relying on Several Thousands of Flagellated Bacteria Acting as Workers.” [Thanks, Glen!]


10 thoughts on “CNC bacteria swarm builds tiny pyramid

  1. billr says:

    of face a series of fearsome microbe plagues!

  2. Scott says:

    1) I do wonder if PETA and other such organizations object to this as strongly as they do to circus animals and pack animals and such.

    2) I expect to see this as a Flash game soon – orient the magnetic field and move the bacteria swarm around to build various structures. Avoid the bacteriophages; upgrade to three-flagellated super workers; complete the bridge construction before the level of antibiotic reaches the top of the screen.

  3. says:

    @Scott: no, PETA support the eating of plants, fungi, and single cellular organisms – none of which are “animals”.

    They only argue that animals are intelligent creatures, capable of rich feelings, and that subjecting them to immense suffering is unacceptable to a modern society. They are a lobbying group. So you aren’t their audience. Their audience are governments and large companies. They gain your attention with silliness, then threaten to expose your attention to the likes of burger king and mcdonalds on real issues. They’ve been extremely effective in this, having caused every major anerican fast food chain to offer vegetarian options and to treat their slaughter animals a lot more humanely, at a tiny increased cost – except for KFC who have refused everything. They have also mostly single handedly made fur unfashionable.

    Clearly there can be a lot of power in making a fool of ones self. :)

  4. Patrick Callahan says:

    This makes me sick

  5. Patrick Callahan says:

    Once again we are using slaves to build the pyramids.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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