STATES CHRONICLE – Daniela Rus, the director of MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, isn’t seeing the technology in this newly developed stomach origami robot for the first time. Her lab has been building these research little robots for years.
What’s special about this stomach origami robot is that having a different design than its predecessors, it can unfold in a person’s stomach, crawl across the stomach walls and patch wounds or even, surprisingly, retrieve swallowed batteries – the single-cell kind.
And this battery swallowing issue is no small one; over 3,500 incidents of this nature happen every year in the US, and most of them are related to toddlers.
While most of the batteries being swallowed are safely digested, some leak and lead to bleeding from tissue burn or even, in worst cases, death.
Building an ingestible machinery to solve this type of problem poses numerous challenges. The system should be “small, controllable and untethered”, explains the MIT lab director, and it’s one utterly challenging job.
The stomach origami robot they’ve built has a magnet attached to it, and it is controlled by magnetic fields applied externally. It’s made out of a two-layered structural material that maintains the robot’s shape and one dried pig intestine material that shrinks when entering in contact with heat.
When this outer pig material contracts, the robot acts like a tiny concertina and can move through the stomach walls the way a worm does. In the liquid part of the stomach, the robot can also swim.
The team tested the stomach origami robot in a synthetic stomach they had specially built. This testing device is made out of silicone, filled with a mixture to stimulate fluids and is modeled after a pig’s stomach.
The robot is sent through the stomach in an ice capsule. When the ice melts, the robot then goes to complete its mission. In the test, it went after a button battery and retrieved it successfully.
The international team at the MIT Lab is excited about the implications this new gadget could have in the health field and the further development it opens.
Their research findings are being presented this May 16 to 21 in Stockholm, Sweden, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
Image courtesy of Phys.org