04 Feb
Shape-Shifting Medical Robots Shape-Shifting Medical Robots

Shape-Shifting Medical Robots

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The idea that a tiny robot could travel into various areas of the human body in order to deliver drugs to hard-to-access areas seems miraculous in and of itself. Until one considers that such a bot would likely run into myriad obstacles along the way, including twists and turns within groups of tissues, that might impede or prevent its movements, thereby rendering it all but useless.

Which is why it's all the more extraordinary to consider new developments by researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and ETH Zurich: They've come up with elastic robots, designed after bacteria and entirely biocompatible, that are capable of changing their shapes in response to surroundings.

Since the flexible bots possess the capability of swimming amid fluids while modifying their shape, they can navigate narrow blood vessels and complicated systems without negatively impacting maneuverability or speed.

The hydrogel nanocomposites that comprise the bots permit them to be guided by way of an electromagnetic field. The bots can also be left to travel on their own by utilizing fluid flow.

In a press release, Selman Sakar of EPFL explains, “Our robots have a special composition and structure that allow them to adapt to the characteristics of the fluid they are moving through. For instance, if they encounter a change in viscosity or osmotic concentration, they modify their shape to maintain their speed and maneuverability without losing control of the direction of motion.”

The scientists figured out how to fabricate their unique bots by exploring an origami-based folding technique. The locomotion strategy employed for the bots uses embodied intelligence, an alternative to more traditional computation programs that are executed by embedded electronic systems.


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Read 1366 times Last modified on Thursday, 31 January 2019 07:56
Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

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