This Ingestible Origami Robot Removes Swallowed Battery And Patches A Wound In Stomach

Posted: May 13 2016, 9:10am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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This Ingestible Origami Robot Removes Swallowed Battery and Patches a Wound in Stomach
The new robot consists of two layers of structural material sandwiching a material that shrinks when heated. A pattern of slits in the outer layers determines how the robot will fold when the middle layer contracts. Photo: Melanie Gonick/MIT
  • Origami Robot can be Swallowed and will Serve Well in Future Healthcare Plans

An origami robot that is small and made of meat can in fact be swallowed like a pill. It can unfold in your stomach and remove the batteries you swallow. It will serve well in the future healthcare plans.

Experiments have been taking place at MIT. They involve a tiny origami robot that can unfold from a swallowed capsule to search the stomach for something and retrieve it. It is controlled by outer magnetic fields.

The research group of Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will present this new research at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, which will take place this week. The robot had been only a plan on paper up until now. Yet today it is a reality.

“It’s really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care,” says Rus, who also directs MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

“For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system. It’s really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether.”

In order to allow the robot to enter the body, several steps were taken by the makers of this origami technology. The robot is a new model of the original prototype which was sent into the body via a tether. It undergoes propulsion via a stick-slip motion.

The appendages of the robot stick and then allow it to slide across the surface. Like many other origami robots of its kind, this latest one also has two materials that wrap around an inner core that contracts upon being warmed. There are cracks in this surface that allow the robot to move in the preferred manner.

The stick-slip technology functions on two conditions. The size of the robot (which should be small enough) and the stiffness of the robot. The novel design was based on a biologically suitable material.

Fewer cracks had to be made in its capsule-like body to make the new robot work properly. Since the human stomach is very slippery, the robot didn’t just rely on stick-slip technology.

The robot uses the liquid interior of the stomach to glide on its path. 20% of the motion is through the liquid present on the inner walls of the stomach. 80% is due to the stick-slip technology.

The robot also underwent extreme compression so that it could be fitted into a capsule form. The design basically took place through a hit-or-miss method.

Yet it was a success in the end. This robot is dependent upon magnets for its steering functions. The researchers have tested its viability in a length of dried pig’s intestines.

Human beings will be the test subjects next. The robot will be used in the future to retrieve batteries that have been swallowed by children. Such cases often end up in the emergency room. With this robot, saving the poor kid who has swallowed the battery will be cinch.

“It’s really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to healthcare,” Daniela Rus says. Pictured, an example of a capsule and the unfolded origami device.

Video: Melanie Gonick/MIT

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