The scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne created microrobots that simulate the behavior of microbes and will be used to perform medical operations.
The microrobots are designed to enter the human body and perform non-invasive operations, such as clearing arteries or deliver drugs to the specific area that it was affected by the disease.
The French researchers worked together with their Zurich colleagues and invented a new method to create the microscopic robots. They also created a platform for testing and studying the devices and the way they can be moved and controlled inside the body.
The robots they have designed and built have an integrated manipulation platform that can control the movements through electromagnetic fields. The microrobots can also change shape when exposed to different temperatures.
The devices behave just like a bacterium, as they are flexible, soft and have no motor. They are built out of magnetic nanoparticles and biocompatible hydrogel.
The movements originate from the features of the nanoparticles, and the microscopic devices react when an electromagnetic field is applied.
How Is It Built
The nanoparticles are covered in layers of biocompatible hydrogel. Then the electromagnetic field is used to orientate the nanoparticles. A final polymerization procedure is needed to fix the layers.
Once placed in water, the device acts in a manner defined by the nanoparticles. The electromagnetic field is also used to make the robot swim in the liquid. When exposed to heat, the device will unfold and change shape.
The microrobot is remarkable because it can be programmed to move and change shape through a non-invasive action in the form of electromagnetic pulses.
The African Bacterium
The researchers designed the mini robot to mimic the African bacterium trypanosomiasis, which uses a flagellum for movement, and then hides it away to survive in the bloodstream.
The team tested several ways to make the robot change its form. The solution they found was to attach the robot a flagellum that would permit the device to swim and will disappear after it was heated up with a laser. The flagellum does not completely vanish, but it wraps around the robot.
The merit of the researchers is the new movement system, which can be adapted to support different features in a robot. Their inspiration in a bacterium also provides information on how the microorganisms survive in a microenvironment.
The project is still in the testing phase. The scientists have to determine what would be the impact on the body of a living person, as until now they only tested the device in water.
Image Source: Wikipedia