Ant-alike robotic flock develop for medical usage

Chinese scientists developed robotic system inspired by a colony of ants that can collectively achieve complex tasks like gathering large prey.

Ant-alike robotic flock develop for medical usage

The study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics described the nanorobots fleet that have demonstrated potential for in-body diagnosis and treatment at the cellular or even molecular level.

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Xie Hui, a professor of Harbin Institute of Technology, who led the study, told Xinhua that a single robot is two micrometers in its diameter, 40 times smaller than a hair, thus capable of running through blood capillaries.

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The peanut-shaped iron microrobots can be energized by an alternating magnetic field, offering high flexibility to collectively perform multiple tasks in a confined environment, according to the study.

By tuning the frequency of the rotating magnetic field and its polarization in three-dimensional space, the researchers obtained a series of well-controlled, fast, and reversible transformations, Xie said.

Those formations include liquid, chain, vortex and ribbon. They can form narrow paths or channels to deliver heavy loads beyond a single robot’s capability.

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Xie said the robotic swarm might be used to identify and attack pathological cells or even stay inside the body for health monitoring in the future, providing a new tool for early-stage detection and treatment. 

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