Estate agents are known for describing smaller houses as 'bijou' or 'cosy'. But imagine the tiny clunks of roof panels slipping together in this house, a million times smaller than a cottage. Pictured with a scanning electron microscope, the tiny abode is assembled by robots on the tip of an optical fibre (looking like a podium here), inside a nanofactory. An ion beam laser cuts a template of the house out of a sheet of silica 'paper', which then folds itself up. A tweak on the laser settings welds the house together. But this isn’t a rehousing project for bacteria, rather a proof of principle for an even more ambitious idea – constructing tiny, yet sophisticated sensors on the ends of optical fibres as thin a human hairs. At home inside the body, these could measure our blood pressure, changes in temperature or the monitor the fight against infections.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.