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Drug delivery robot moves like a caterpillar (VIDEO)

ITN News Editor
By ITN News Editor November 6, 2018 15:58

Drug delivery robot moves like a caterpillar (VIDEO)

Hong Kong scientists have developed a tiny, soft robot that moves like a caterpillar, which they hope will be capable of delivering drugs within the human body.

The flexible robot has hundreds of 1mm-long hair-like pointed legs. This reduces the contact area with the surface it moves across, reducing friction and allowing it to move efficiently across both bumpy, dry surfaces and wet ones. The team says laboratory tests showed the microbot has 40 times less friction than a limbless robot in wet and dry conditions. It is also able to jump more than 10 times its own length.

The team constructed the robot from a type of silicon (polydimethylsiloxane) embedded with magnetic particles. The rubbery material is flexible and can be cut to form different shapes and sizes.

The team were able to control the robot remotely by using a magnetic manipulator to move it forwards using a flapping or swinging movement.

The prototypes of the robot are already able to lift 100 times their own weight, which the researchers compare to a human lifting a 26-seat minibus. While only millimetres in size, they can cross obstacles as large as 100 times their own height.

The micro-robots are able to use several locomotion modes, which the scientists say may eventually help them navigate the highly viscous conditions inside the human body.

The researchers have already tested the robot carrying a pill replica over a wet surface in a model of the human stomach.

Further testing on animals and eventually humans will be necessary, but the team hopes the technology may be ready to use in patients within the next five years. They aim to develop a biodegradable robot that delivers drugs and then decomposes naturally.

The team’s research was published in Nature Communications journal.

It’s not the only team developing “millirobots”. A Max Planck team developed a similar prototype earlier this year. Their version is also a silicon strip embedded with magnetic particles and is inspired by the movement of beetle larvae, caterpillars and other soft-bodied organisms.


ITN News Editor
By ITN News Editor November 6, 2018 15:58