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