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article imageNanorobots designed to swim through human blood

By Tim Sandle     Nov 22, 2014 in Science
Bonn - Nanorobots could be designed to carry out medical tasks in the human body. Researchers have created “swimming bodies” that can navigate through biological fluids like blood.
If nanorobots could successfully be designed they could be used to deliver drugs precisely to a target location, such as a micro-point on the retina of the eye. Such devices could eliminate the need for major surgery for a vast number of procedures. The big stumbling block to such advances has been how to design a device to move in a controlled fashion through body fluids.
Researchers think they have the answer: to design a nanorobot that is shaped like a scallop made out of hard type of plastic, and which is only a few hundred micrometers in diameter. Key to the device is the design. The nanorobot moves in liquids by opening and closing its shells. Interestingly this symmetrical opening and closing of the robot would yield no net forward movement in liquids like water (because the opening and closing simply cancels the movement out.) However, in liquids whose viscosity changes with the speed of the movement, like blood, the robot is capable of movement. This is all to do with friction and works a little like synovial fluid found in joints.
In order to control the movements, the researchers found a means to integrate tiny magnets into the robots (a form of magnetic nickel.) With these, the researchers can control the rate of opening and closing of the shells, and thus the speed and direction can be altered.
The new research marks the first time an artificial device of this size has ever been able to move through fluids by means of symmetrical motion cycles. This heralds the promise of new robotic medical devices.
The research was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany. The findings have been published in Nature Communications. The paper is titled “Swimming by reciprocal motion at low Reynolds number.”
More about Nanotechnology, Nanorobots, Blood, Medicine
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