There’s a Microscopic Robot On This Penny That’s Built to Go Inside You…


In Black Mirror robotic dogs open doors, but
in real life MICROSCOPIC robots could explore your digestive system — and I don’t know
which creeps me out more. Let’s introduce, microscale magnetic tumbling
robots, OR microTUMs. These 4 to 800 micron long tiny bots are designed
to deliver a specific drug to a specific place in your body. Imagine taking a pill filled with these instead
of just filled with powdered chemicals. See, when you take a normal pill the medication
just sort of dissipates all over the place hopefully hitting the prescribed target, but
some things are harder to find. Like, a 1 centimeter peptic ulcer in a 10
meter gastrointestinal tract. It becomes a needle in the haystack. And these robots are designed to navigate
your gastrointestinal haystack. The human body is vastly complex and the robots
will be facing tough resistance towards their destination, so mobility is key. As you can see there’s isn’t much room for
a battery or wires in this tiny robot. Which is fine, because they’re actually
powered from the outside… using magnetic fields. The idea is, once you’ve ingested these
lil guys, their two magnetic ends, which are embedded with neodymium-iron-boron (NbFeB)
particles, are paired with an constantly rotating magnetic field, the microTUMs can then be
set in their course to tumble over the bumps and trenches inside your body. The tumbling motion of these microTUMs plays
an important role because the tumbling allows the bot to be in constant contact with the
surface.The robots are versalite, malleable, and in most cases have autonomous motion capabilities. But it’s not easy designing things this
small. Engineers have to understand forces that only
exist on a micron scale — like van der Waals forces — which are too complicated to explain
right now, but are an attraction between molecules that could, along with electrostatic forces,
stop these bots in their tracks. The microTUM researchers were able to model
those forces in their lab and create a tumbling solution which keeps them rolling. Once they roll their way to the problem, the
bots release the drug they’re carrying and hopefully you’re all-better. But scientists at Caltech are thinking about
a slightly different medical micro-solution. They’re working on “smart pills”. Which are microns in length as well, but instead
of just tumbling to deliver drugs, these tiny microchips serve as “wardens of our body”
flowing through to monitor our health from the inside. Things like pH, temperature, pressure, and
sugar concentrations could all be relayed back to your doctor to help in diagnosis. No matter which of these find their way to
the medical market, the future looks tiny. Everyday we’re getting closer to making
swallowing tiny robots a reality. Which is great, but also a bit unnerving thinking
about microbots traveling around inside of me… kind of preferring the the robot dog
advancements now. Hey there macropeople, like learning about
all things science? Go ahead and subscribe and while you’re
here, check out this interview with a researcher who’s trying to make one shot give you all
the vaccines in you could ever need. Fun fact: So how long is 400 microns exactly? Well it’s about one-third the size of an
average grain of sand. Dang. Thanks for watching.

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