The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed an ingestible origami robot that could help in a near future in clinical procedures. The MIT worked along with the University of York in England, the University of Sheffield and the Tokyo Institute of Technology
The rectangle-sized robot is ingested through a capsule the patient will have to ingest. Then, the patient would have a tiny robot ramblin around its stomach to help with the patient’s needs.
This is not the first time MIT has developed a small unfoldable robot, this projects are constantly on-going at the institute’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) directed by Dr. Daniela Rus.
A new step into robotic-medical assistance
The team of researches was directed by Dr. Daniela Rus from MIT and compose by the Andrew and Erna Viterbi team from MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
The invention is able to propel itself with what the team calls “stick-slip”motion in which the accordion -like surface of the robot’s body can stick to a surface through friction, moving along in a similar way that worms do.
Thanks to a built-in pattern of slits in the robot’s layers the device can determine when to fold when hitting the middle layer magnetic contacts.
How does the origami robot works?
The robot starts to work when the patient ingest an ice-made pill containing the device. And then it melts when hitting a warmer surface, such as the human stomach.
Thanks to the pattern of slits built-in the robot and located in the outer layers, the team of researchers can determine how and when the robot moves inside the human body. Along with the ‘stick-slip’ motion, the robot moves around through friction movements.
The weight of the origami robot allows it to slip and distribute its weight when moving around, for a more easy transportation.
The robot is not able to control itself, so the team can control it thanks to a magnetic field. The robot possesses magnets on each end of the rectangle robot and the team controls those magnets remotely.
“For applications inside the body, we need a small controllable, untethered robot system. It’s really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether.” Said Dr. Daniela Rus director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the Institute’s statement.
What is the robot made off?
The team of investigators made an extensive look of dozen materials that could form the robot.
“ We spent a lot of time at the Asian markets and the Chinatown market looking for material,” said Shuguang Li a CSAIL postdoc from the Tokyo Institute of Technology who collaborated in the project.
The team settle with a type of dried pig intestine that is commonly found in sausage casings, since the material is digestible and is able to fold into the origami robot.
To test their brand new origami robot the team recreated a human stomach with a cross-section of the stomach and the esophagus made from silicone rubber, to then add a mixture of water and lemon juice to recreate the acid fluids inside the stomach.
The team then inserted the ice-pill to watch it melt and observe the origami robot move around the stomach.
Medical and clinical uses
According to the team, every year around 3,500 kids and adults swallow button batteries in the United States. When swallowing this batteries, the vast majority of them are digested in a normal way, yet some can cause an electric current that burns the inside tissue.
Daniela Rus along with her team tested a button battery inside the synthetic stomach, for the robot to remove it and insert it into the digestive system, achieving a successful result.
The team hopes the robot could also help in moving medicine into the correct locations inside the human body.
This new robot comes as a response of the many investigations and papers held by Daniela Rus and teammates who work on developing origami robots. The results of the new work will be shown at this week’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
Last year in the same conference the team showed an origami robot that assembles itself and could be used inside small pipes for a more comfortable work.
The team hopes to improve the robot so it can manage itself without the need of an outside magnetic field.
— MIT (@MIT) May 12, 2016