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Mini-robotics and medicine – ContraReplica

“Only machines, from now on, will be inevitable!”: Isaac Asimov

How far will robotics be able to surprise us?

I ask the above, because these days in an outstanding investigation of the Science Robotics magazine, it was revealed that engineers from Northwestern University, in Illinois, United States, presented a remotely controlled miniature laser robot and that It is capable of manipulating cells and tissues.

The miniaturization of technology is an attractive field for medicine, which looks to nanobots and sub-millimeter components for the solution to many treatments. In this sense, a tiny robotic crab that bends, twists, crawls; that walking, turning and even jumping through orders that mark him from a laboratory, can be a decisive finding for the future.

This tiny half-millimeter-wide friend, which looks like something out of a science fiction movie, may be the solution longed for by doctors and health specialists, who see the field of microrobots as a sector with great potential in modern medicine. precision.

Currently, there are robot assistants in operating rooms for organ harvesting, wound cauterization, and tumor removal; But, nothing compares to what almost microscopic teams could do for human health in the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s or diabetes, not from outside the body but from within. That is what they are aiming for with these miniature studies.

By developing robots smaller than a flea, they do not need to be powered by electrical devices, nor do they have any type of battery. Their movements are based on the elastic resistance of their structure and the malleable alloy material with which they can be made. Thus, the robot recovers its initial shape when it heats up and loses it when it cools down, generating a movement that can be very useful inside the human body.

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To create this small-scale robot, the researchers used a laser beam at extreme temperatures, which rapidly heated the different parts of the robot’s body to achieve its unlimited elasticity and flexibility. A thin glass liner allowed the heated part to cool down at a high rate, resulting in the final product.

The movement that the robot can achieve is half the length of its body per second. We are talking about a speed that is almost impossible to achieve at such small scales for other robots, but the Northwestern researchers achieved it thanks to their peculiar approach to materials science, which was through children’s pop-up books, those that show pages three-dimensional and unfoldable from die-cut cardboard structures.

Hence, as the robot moves from one phase to another, it creates movement and the laser not only activates the robot from a distance, but also allows its direction to be determined.

Impressive truth! Well meanwhile we will wait to be intervened by a robot of this type.

Engineer in Electronics and Telecommunications from the UAM.

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