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Ingestible Origami Robot

By MIT News

May 13, 2016

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and the University of Sheffield have demonstrated an origami robot that can unfold from a ingestible capsule and use external magnetic fields to navigate across the stomach wall to extract a swallowed button battery or repair a wound.

"For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system," says MIT professor Daniela Rus.

The robot propels itself via a "stick-slip" motion, in which its appendages cling to a surface through friction when it executes a move, but slip free again when its body flexes to change its weight distribution. To ensure this form of locomotion works, the robot uses a flexible biocompatible material instead of Mylar, as its predecessor did.

The device also is composed of two layers of structural material sandwiching a material that contracts when heat is applied, while a pattern of slits in the outer layers determines how the robot will fold when the middle layer shrinks.

The robot's design also incorporates a fin concept so it can propel water to move forward, while a permanent magnet responds to the external magnetic fields that guide it.

The researchers tested the robot in a simulated stomach and esophagus.

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