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A small drop of viscous appearance, controllable from the outside, able to move through our body and enter its narrowest and most cruel corners… This idea may seem a little disturbing: nevertheless, this innovation could be a benefit in the field of medicine.
The scientist Xinjian Fan and his team are behind the development of this strange robot. Their research was published in a journal Scientific advances. Their goal: to develop a functional fluidic robot, remotely controlled, able to slip into the human body and intervene in a minimally invasive way. For example, the idea would be that it could deliver drugs or break up blood clots in an extremely targeted manner.
The device measures approximately one centimeter. It is liquid because it consists of magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles suspended in oil. The whole thing is that this magnetic fluid therefore responds very well to the magnets used to control it remotely. In fact, scientists say, it can even change shape and scale at will.
in sample video, we can thus see how the robot develops through a labyrinth that confronts it with various difficulties. So it turns out that it is able to stretch when it has to enter narrow passages, contract to compact itself, but also split into several droplets to reduce its size, and also subsequently coalesce. For scientists, these diverse abilities enable optimal navigation in the human body.
Indeed, the interior of our anatomy is littered with pitfalls and passageways that are difficult for fixed devices to traverse. Being able to deform and split at will therefore makes this robot very adept at moving fluidly within us. So it could reach sensitive areas in a non-invasive way. It would also be an advantage to deliver medicines in a targeted manner, even to several places at the same time.
A robot that adapts to the complexity of the human body
As the scientists point out, this fluidic robot is not the first of its kind. Many research works are related to these devices, which are of interest, especially for their possible applications in the medical field: Miniature untethered magnetic robots can navigate lumen and tubular tissue, enabling new therapies and minimally invasive diagnostic medical procedures by reducing recovery time “, they emphasize in their publication. However, they have done special work on the possibility of expansion, they say. ” Compared to biological barriers, millimeter robots are too large, which limits their ability to penetrate tumors and other tissues and reduces their applicability and practicality for targeted drug delivery. “.
This new type of robot can adapt to different scales and reduce its size down to the micrometer scale, especially thanks to its dividing capacity. Although we won’t see it on operating tables anytime soon, the little robot could prove to be very useful in the future.
Robot demo video: