Meet the research team from Max Planck Institute that has been conducting experiments with micro-sized robots, that can swim through body fluids and can either be used for the delivery of drugs or for medical relief by targeting a certain area.
The microbots that are being designed by the team can be classified as swimmers, which are scallop-like devices. The mechanism that they use for swimming is paddling for the non-Newtonian fluids such as blood and plasma (water acts the same way on a micro level as well). So in a nutshell these robots are moving through a fluid that has a variable viscosity based upon how much force is being exerted on it.
In order to achieve the above stated task, the microbots require a propulsion method that has to be incorporated into the tiny bodies while still allowing them to use the non-Newtonian fluid properties to their advantage. The process employed by the research team has been named as ‘modulation of the fluid viscosity upon varying the shear rate.’ The micro scallops, to explain it in simpler words, open and close the ‘shells’ to compress the fluid and push it out behind them thus helping the microbots to propel along.
Professor Peer Fischer, Leader of the Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems Research Group said, “The shell is only a few times larger than the thickness of a human hair. A liquid like water is about as viscous for these devices as honey or even tar is for us.” The team made use of magnetic actuators to open and close the shells of the microbots. If done at a reasonably fast pace, the microbots can easily swim across in the fluid.
The microbot has a size of 800 microns and this renders it capable of moving through the blood stream, lymphatic system or even in the surface of eyeballs. Also, the small size and relatively simple design allows for 3D printing them. These microbots are the future of drug delivery and medical treatment and we will soon be seeing them in mainstream medicine! Fingers crossed till then.