Another Biological-based Surgical Microrobot

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I have written before about the “fantastic voyage” surgical idea.  In this 1966 movie, a submarine and its scientis/doctor team are shrunk down and inected into the body to diagnose and treat a blood clot (they use a laser of course.  You can see past posts about rmars rover technology in medicine here, an implantable cardiac robot here and a self-propelled swimming robot here.  My podcast that reviews the coming surgical revolution including self-contained miniature robots here. 

As reported by technovelgy Scientists at Monash University in Australia (a pioneering center for IVF as well) are devloping a micromotor robot that swims with a flagellum like a bacteria.  As reported by technovelgy 

Dr. James Friend’s goal is to build a device no wider than 250 microns – that’s the width of two human hairs – that would be capable of swimming through the human body. He and his team have already built a linear motor the size of a salt crystal. With a $300,000 grant from the Australian Research Council, Dr. Friend believes that his team will be able to reduce the motor to the necessary size within three years.

According to Dr. Friend, the main difference between the microrobot motor and a conventional electromagnetic type is that the latter spins much faster but has much less torque. “The swimming robot idea in and of itself has indeed been around a long time—since at least the 1950′s anyway, and our motor is of a scale and has the performance characteristics needed to actually make this sort of thing possible.

Regarding performance, as electromagnetic (EM) motors are reduced in size, they tend to have far higher rotation speeds: a typical 3 mm diameter EM motor will spin at over 20,000 rpm. Worse, the torque of such motors could be measured in micronewton-mm, only useful if one also employs a gearbox. We’re using ultrasonic motor technology here, which offer higher torques at lower speeds. Traditionally that has always been the limitation of any of this technology: the motor. If you pick up a typical electronic parts catalogue, you’ll find all sorts of sensors and electrical components, but very few of them actually produce physical motion. Those that do are certainly not solid state, and this is a need we’re hoping to address.”

It’s amazing how many separate centers are now developing this concept of implantable self-guiding robots.  If you remember what was involved in getting the mars rovers to the red plaet successfully getting into the body seems simple by comparison. 

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