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How Microbots Could Save Your LIfe

How Microbots Could Save Your LIfe
August 04
18:06 2016

The only reason why the idea of small miniature robots isn’t completely foreign to us is because we have seen them be used in sci-fi movies.

But, the notion of nanomachines may no longer be a thing of fiction in the not so distant future.

According to a recently published research paper in the journal Nature Communications, scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL) and the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich– have designed a prototype of one of these microrobots.

This mini robot is shape-shifting as it mimics a bacterium whose tail folds away once it enters the bloodstream.

“Our new production method lets us test an array of shapes and combinations to obtain the best motion capability for a given task,” said EPFL’s Selman Sakar. “Our research also provides valuable insight into how bacteria move inside the human body and adapt to changes in their microenvironment.”

The journal reports that robots may play an important role in transporting drugs to certain areas of the body through the bloodstream in the near future.

These “robots” are far from the robots shown in The Terminator.

The micro-bots are flexible, soft and moter-less and are constructed from biocompatible hydrogel and magnetic nanoparticles. The nanoparticles give the little robots their shape and then they react to electromagnetic fields that prompt them to move to where the fields are being applied. That is how doctors will get the medicine to the section of the body that needs it.

It sounds a lot easier than it is. Making the robot is pretty complicated. “First, the nanoparticles are inserted into layers of the hyrdogel, before an electromagnetic field aligns the nanoparticles and a process of polymerisation solidifies the hyrdogel. The robot is then placed into water, where it folds into its final shape, which depends on the nanoparticles’ orientation,” writes the Huffintonpost.

With a laser bean, the robot can be heated to change its shape.

Although this seems like quite a bit of progress, these little guys are in the early development stage. They aren’t ready to be used in operations or as a drug delivery agent. Not to mention, the side-effects on a patient’s body have yet to be discovered.

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Kerri Adams

Kerri Adams

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