Scientists have created a robot that can transform from a black glob into a swarm of tiny beads and back again.
The inventors claim that the robot’s ability to split into multiple pieces and then reassemble makes it potentially useful for drug delivery.
The human body is full of winding, narrow passages and almost impenetrable barriers too restrictive for a robot visible to the naked eye to venture through. Micro-scale robots are where they are, being small enough to squeeze into any tiny space.
Unfortunately, their small scale comes at the cost of a reduced ability to carry enough material to meet the treatment needs of whole diseased organs.
A shape-shifting robot could overcome this problem by transforming into a swarm and then recombining once it reaches its final destination.
In a recent study, a team of international scientists constructed a robot from “ferrofluid”, a suspension of iron oxide and hydrocarbon oil.
They used rotating spherical magnets to apply force to the substance so that it would tear into multiple pieces or stretch to move through narrow passages.
To demonstrate the robot’s potential usefulness in traversing the arteries and capillaries of the human body, the researchers constructed a maze with wide and narrow sections.
By dividing the robot into a swarm, it could reach the end of the maze successfully.
The main obstacle to using this invention in biomedical applications is the magnetic control system, which should be strong enough to penetrate human tissue, according to the researchers. say.
Over the past decade, researchers have increasingly applied emerging magnetic control technology miniature robotics to human health. The next big step forward in the field is to make the bodies of tiny robots out of something much softer and much more malleable.
Previous research has shown that these types of robots can traverse confined spaces inside the human body, such as gaps in tissues and branches of blood vessels, to deliver cargo with cellular-level precision and perform micro-manipulations, researchers say.
Recently, attention has focused on soft miniature robots made of fluids, gels and elastomers because they are much more flexible than robots made of rigid materials, researchers say.
This article was published in Scientists progress.