Robots are becoming more human-like all the time, but will they ever help, well, make a baby? Creepy maybe, but a new study suggests that such a thing may soon be in the offing.
By placing sperm cells within these magnetic micro-tubes, the researchers were able to use magnetic fields to steer the sperm, as seen in the video above. The team also controlled the speed of the sperm's movement by altering the temperature of the environment. (The spermbots move faster when heated and slower when cooled.)
But why make robot sperm in the first place? Though assisted fertilization of human eggs is one possibility, the researchers say the micro-bots may aid with drug delivery, New Scientist reported. In essence, sperm cells would carry drugs to precisely targeted areas.
"The combination of a biological power source and a microdevice is a compelling approach to the development of new microrobotic devices with fascinating future application," the researchers wrote in their study's abstract.
In previous research, scientists struggled to find a means to adequately control a single cell. But, "this type of hybrid approach could lead the way in making efficient robotic micro-systems," Eric Diller, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Toronto told New Scientist. He was not involved in the study.
The Institute for Integrative Nanosciences team published their robot sperm research in the scientific journal Advanced Materials.