A group of researchers led by Shen Yajing have proposed to coat mili-robots with a composited agglutinate magnetic spray, in order to be able to control them and their movement in the human body using magnets.
“Our spray can convert various tiny objects to mini robots directly,” said Yajing.
Construction and development of millirobots requires simple and scalable fabrication techniques, explained the team, who proposed a “minimalist approach.”
According to them, only a thin coating of the glue-like spray is necessary to turn an object, which can be flat or three-dimensional, into a mini-robot. The coating consists of polyvinyl alcohol, gluten and iron particles.
The biomedical use of the tiny robots could be seen in the delivery of pills to a particular location. It is possible to remove the spray coating with an oscillating magnetic field to break it down into powder. When the tiny tech product serves its purpose, the remaining powder can be absorbed ore excreted by the body, explained Yajing.
“Under the actuation of a magnetic field, our millirobots are able to demonstrate a range of locomotive abilities: crawling, walking, and rolling. Moreover, we can reprogram and disintegrate the magnetic film on our millirobots on demand. We leverage these abilities to demonstrate biomedical applications, including catheter navigation and drug delivery,” the scientists wrote in an article published by the Science Robotics journal.
The team performed tests by successfully manoeuvring and disintegrating a spray-coated drug to a target area in an unconscious rabbit’s stomach.
“With biocompatible components and side effects from its disintegration negligible, it makes a good candidate for biomedical applications” says Xinyu Wu at Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology.
The full study by the researchers of the City University of Hong Kong, “An agglutinate magnetic spray transforms inanimate objects into millirobots for biomedical applications” has been published on 18 November.