- Title: Drug delivery robot moves like a caterpillar
- Date: 5th November 2018
- Summary: HONG KONG, CHINA (OCTOBER 12, 2018) (REUTERS) PROFESSOR WANG ZUANKAI (LEFT) WITH DR. SHEN YAJING (RIGHT) LOOKING AT MICRO-ROBOT ON COMPUTER SCREEN VARIOUS OF COMPUTER SCREEN SHOWING STAR-SHAPED MICRO-ROBOT MOVING ON ROUGH SURFACE DR. SHEN YAJING LOOKING AT COMPUTER SCREEN VARIOUS OF COMPUTER SCREEN SHOWING MICRO-ROBOT DEMONSTRATING LOCOMOTION MODES ZUANKAI LOOKING AT COMPUTER SCREEN ZUANKAI TYPING ON KEYBOARD VARIOUS OF COMPUTER SCREEN SHOWING STAR-SHAPED MICRO-ROBOT MOVING ON ROUGH SURFACE
- Embargoed: 19th November 2018 10:10
- Keywords: milli-robot caterpillar robot drug delivery robot Hong Kong City University
- Location: HONG KONG, CHINA
- City: HONG KONG, CHINA
- Country: Hong Kong
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA002958AUE3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Hong Kong scientists have developed a tiny, soft robot that moves like a caterpillar, which they hope will be capable of delivering drugs within the human body.
"In the future, the robot can be used for drug delivery, and also medical operations," predicted professor Wang Zuankai, who led the research team at the City University of Hong Kong.
The flexible robot has hundreds of 1mm-long hair-like pointed legs. This reduces the contact area with the surface it moves across, reducing friction and allowing it to move efficiently across both bumpy, dry surfaces and wet ones. The team says laboratory tests showed the microbot has 40 times less friction than a limbless robot in wet and dry conditions. It is also able to jump more than 10 times its own length.
The team constructed the robot from a type of silicon (polydimethylsiloxane) embedded with magnetic particles. The rubbery material is flexible and can be cut to form different shapes and sizes.
The team were able to control the robot remotely by using a magnetic manipulator to move it forwards using a flapping or swinging movement.
The prototypes of the robot are already able to lift 100 times their own weight, which the researchers compare to a human lifting a 26-seat minibus. While only millimetres in size, they can cross obstacles as large as 100 times their own height.
The micro-robots are able to use several locomotion modes, which the scientists say may eventually help them navigate the highly viscous conditions inside the human body.
"Because our robot is very water repellant, the drag reduction is very good, so the robot can move freely inside the body," said Wang.
The researchers have already tested the robot carrying a pill replica over a wet surface in a model of the human stomach.
Further testing on animals and eventually humans will be necessary, but the team hopes the technology may be ready to use in patients within the next five years. They aim to develop a biodegradable robot that delivers drugs and then decomposes naturally.
The team's research was published in Nature Communications journal.
It's not the only team developing "millirobots". A Max Planck team developed a similar prototype earlier this year. Their version is also a silicon strip embedded with magnetic particles and is inspired by the movement of beetle larvae, caterpillars and other soft-bodied organisms.
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