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Tiny Robot Could Help Doctors Perform Surgery

Tiny Robot Could Help Doctors Perform Surgery

A team of engineers on the University of Waterloo has developed a tiny robot that might eventually help doctors perform surgery. The robot was inspired by the gripping ability of geckos and the efficient locomotion of inchworms.

The research was published in

Maneuvering With UV and Magnetic Force

The robot uses ultraviolet (UV) light and magnetic force to maneuver on any surface, including up partitions and across ceilings. It’s the primary soft robot of its kind that doesn’t require a connection to an external power supply, which enables distant operation and versatilities. Due to these features, the robot might be used to help surgeons and search inaccessible places.

Dr. Boxin Zhao is a professor of chemical engineering.

“This work is the primary time a holistic soft robot has climbed on inverted surfaces, advancing state-of-the-art soft robotics innovation,” he said. “We’re optimistic about its potential, with far more development, in several different fields.”

The team named the robot GeiwBot, after the creatures that inspired its design. Constructed with a sensible material, it will possibly be altered on the molecular level to mimic how geckos attach and detach their powerful grippers on their feet.

Creating the Tiny Robot

The robot is a mere 4 centimeters in length, three millimeters in width, and one millimeter thick, allowing it to climb vertical partitions and traverse ceilings without the necessity for an influence source. The robot was created using liquid crystal elastomers and artificial adhesive pads. It incorporates a light-responsive polymer strip that mimics the arching and stretching movement of an inchworm, while gecko-inspired magnet pads at each end provide gripping capability.

Zhao can also be the University of Waterloo Endowed Chair in Nanotechnology.

“Regardless that there are still limitations to beat, this development represents a big milestone for utilizing biomimicry and smart materials for soft robots,” said Zhao. “Nature is an excellent source of inspiration and nanotechnology is an exciting approach to apply its lessons.”

By developing an untethered soft robot, the researchers are paving the best way for potential surgical applications via distant operation contained in the human body. Also they are helping to create technology that may be used for sensing or searching in dangerous or hard-to-reach places during rescue operations.

The team will now look to develop a climbing soft robot that’s solely driven by light and doesn’t require a magnetic field. This robot may even use near-infrared radiation as a substitute of UV light, which might improve biocompatibility.


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