3 mind-boggling machines

Published on September 14th, 2012
3 mind-boggling machines

Never mind washing dishes or playing mp3s. These machines are exploring new planets and changing people’s lives…

1. Curiosity the Mars rover
At 7:30am on Monday 6 August (South African time), NASA’s latest creation, named Curiosity, landed on the surface of planet Mars. It’s mission? To search the mysterious red planet for signs of past or present life.

Roughly the size of a small SUV and weighing in at 900kg, Curiosity comes with all kinds of amazing instruments, including a power drill, a radiation detector, a weather station, a water detector, an instrument to identify different types of minerals on Mars, a bunch of instruments to detect carbon-containing compounds (which are the building blocks of life), a handy laser to vaporise rocks that Curiosity can’t reach with its robotic arm, and of course, a whole bunch of different cameras.

The rover took over eight months to travel the 566 million kilometres between Earth and Mars, and if all goes according to plan, it’ll spend around 23 Earth months (which is one year on Mars) taking samples and sending photos of one of our closest galactic neighbours. Click here to find out more about Curiosity and see some of the photos it’s taken so far.

Did you know?
All the wiring inside Curiosity is covered with a special insulation tape that’s made from a 3M adhesive and fiberglass layer combined with DuPont Kapton polyimide film. This tape makes sure all the electrical currents from the rover’s different systems don’t interfere with each other.

2. The Dexmart Hand
The human hand is an amazing thing. It can pick up a feather or hold an egg without cracking it, and the next moment, the same hand can crush a Coke can or lift a heavy weight (depending how strong you are). And now, there’s a robotic hand that can display the same kind of skill…

Developed by a team of researchers in Italy and Germany, the five-fingered, life-sized Dexmart Hand can hold a fragile Easter egg, but it can also handle a 5km load. It has built-in light sensors that help it to calculate the amount of force the fingers required to hold onto an object without squashing or dropping it.

According to one of the researhers, Gianluca Palli, “the capability of the robotic hand is so near to that of humans that the vision of robots as personal assistants in the household, in the operating room as well as in industrial settings is becoming ever more realistic.”

3. Nanobots
Okay, so these mini-machines are still under construction, but nanotechnology is set to rock our world in the not-so-distant future, and we can’t wait to see what happens…

Nanotechnology – or extremely tiny technology – is already being used in many of the products you use every day, from sunscreens to scratch-resistant saucepans, but the coolest nanotech is still to come, in the form of miniature robots called nanobots.

And when we say “miniature”, we mean seriously small. So small that these robots be able to travel inside your blood vessels! Researchers are hoping to create microsyringes that will be able to inject substances (like medical treatments or oxygen) directly into a single cell, and one day, nanobots might even be able fight cancer! These smart cancer-busting machines will come with tiny computers and a dose of poison that they’ll inject into any human cell that’s cancerous. Now that’s what we call a medical miracle…

The above three smart ideas were brought to you by 3M, a company that uses curiosity and creativity to solve problems around the world every day. Click here to read more about this awesome, innovative company.


Credit: Images from Flickr/digitalbob8 and Wikimedia Commons