Hong Kong scientists develop new 'nano-swarm' robots

Using oscillating magnetic fields scientists can reconfigure the shape of the nano-swarm from overlapping ribbons (on the left) to clustered lumps (on the right).

Hong Kong (CNN)A groundbreaking new method of controlling nano-robots that emulates natural swarm behavior has been developed by scientists in Hong Kong, the first step in what is hoped could lead to a major medical advancement in the treatment of blood clots.

Nano-robots are miniscule robots or machines that are measured in nanometers, with one nanometer equivalent to one billionth of a meter. They can be used to complete nanoscale mechanical tasks, such as moving molecules, with precision and mobility.
Led by Associate Professor Li Zhang, a team of scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong designed and implemented a strategy of using oscillating magnetic fields to create highly reconfigurable ribbon-like swarms of nano-robots, millions of magnetic nanoparticles each less than one micron wide, or one-fifth the length of a red blood cell.
    As programmers tune the applied magnetic fields, the "micro-swarm" of nano-robots is capable of performing a wide range of structural changes, including extending, shrinking, splitting, and merging, all with a high degree of accuracy.
    "The high reconfigurability is a key discovery," Zhang told CNN whose findings were published in the science journal Nature in August. "The nanobot swarm can be operated in a controlled fashion with a high speed, which has never been reported before."
    Most significantly, the complex transformations of these nano-robots could be completed within the systems of living human and animal bodies.
    It is hoped surgeons could manipulate the nano-robo