Tiny Ingestible Origami Robots Can Unfold in Your Gut to Remove Swallowed Foreign Objects

Sunday, May 15, 2016 - 13:31

Researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demonstrated a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound.

According to the MIT website, the research group includes Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“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).

Although the new robot is a successor to one reported at the same conference last year, the design of its body is significantly different. Like its predecessor, it can propel itself using what’s called a “stick-slip” motion, in which its appendages stick to a surface through friction when it executes a move, but slip free again when its body flexes to change its weight distribution, Tek-Think reports.

This 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.

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