1038 GMT March 31, 2020
The nanoscale robots can use a tiny robotic arm to move and build molecules, UPI wrote.
The molecular robot works by triggering chemical reactions in specially designed solutions.
Eventually, the robot could carry out medical missions or work on chemical assembly lines.
David Leigh, a professor of chemistry at the University of Manchester in England, said, "Our robot is literally a molecular robot constructed of atoms just like you can build a very simple robot out of Lego bricks.
"The robot then responds to a series of simple commands that are programmed with chemical inputs by a scientist."
Leigh likens the robot's production methods to a machine on an automobile assembly line, picking up a panel and riveting it into place.
Leigh added, "Just like the robot in the factory, our molecular version can be programmed to position and rivet components in different ways to build different products, just on a much smaller scale at a molecular level.”
One of the benefits of the new robot is its size. The molecular robot can help reduce material waste in various production processes.
Researchers said it could also help speed up the drug discovery process. Smaller robots can also operate with improve energy efficiency and build smaller products.
Researchers described their breakthrough robot in the journal Nature.
Leigh added, "Our aim is to design and make the smallest machines possible.
"This is just the start but we anticipate that within 10 to 20 years molecular robots will begin to be used to build molecules and materials on assembly lines in molecular factories."
Though the construction process is complex, the molecular robot is built the same way it builds new molecules, through a series of precisely controlled chemical reactions and the steady assemblage of atoms and smaller molecules into bigger molecules.
Leigh added, "It is the same sort of process scientists use to make medicines and plastics from simple chemical building blocks.
"Then, once the nano-robots have been constructed, they are operated by scientists by adding chemical inputs which tell the robots what to do and when, just like a computer program."