Researchers at MIT have developed this incredibly tiny origami robot that can not only fold itself, it can also walk, swim, and then self-destroy when it’s no longer needed. The tiny robot, made from a magnet and pieces of PVC sandwiched between layers of polystyrene or paper, can go through its entire circle of life without the need for cable tethers or wires of any kind.
When the flat structure is first placed on a heating element, the layers of PVC contract, causing it to fold itself into a pre-defined shape wrapped around a magnet. That cubic neodymium magnet trapped inside the folded robot actually serves as its motor. When exposed to an external oscillating magnetic field, the magnet starts to vibrate inside. And thanks to the off-balance design of the tiny folded robot, it’s actually able to walk—or move forward, at least—on its tiny set of legs.
Source (Evan Ackerman, “Origami Robot Folds Itself Up, Does Cool Stuff, Dissolves Into Nothing”, IEEE Spectrum, 28.05.2015)
Original paper: Miyashita, S., Guitron, S., Ludersdorfer, M., Sung, C.R. and Rus, D., 2015, May. An untethered miniature origami robot that self-folds, walks, swims, and degrades. In 2015 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) (pp. 1490-1496). IEEE.