Microbots and Other Bots
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Microbots and Other BotsResearchers in labs around the world are working on incredibly small devices that can work inside us, to help fight disease.   

Reminds me of the sixties movie, Fantastic Voyage, where Raquel Welch and her crew are shrunken, then injected into a diplomat to save his life.

No one is being shrunken here but we are talking about incredibly tiny robots measuring micrometers to nanometers.

Just how small is that?

Well, a human hair is 60 to 120 micrometers thick. Now imagine that within one micrometer, there are one thousand nanometers.

Robots this small are called Nanobots, which are much smaller than bacteria. Microbots are about the size of a bacterium and can be seen with a microscope.

One microbot being developed resembles the flagella – a spiral shaped tail that helps a bacterium to swim. These artificial bacterial flagella or ABFs are about half the diameter of a human hair and are made using computer chip technology.

The process takes indium, gallium, arsenic and chromium and deposits them in layers on an ultrathin sheet. The ABFs are then cut by a complex process called photolithography to create the ultra thin ribbons which curl up to form the tiny spirals.

A magnetic head is attached to the ABF so that, through a magnetic field, can be made to rotate, and move forward and backward. Once it’s directed to a precise location, the robot could deliver medicine that destroys tumors or removes plaque.  

One application is to use an ABF to treat macular degeneration which destroys central vision – the kind you need for reading. Researchers are designing a microbot that once injected into the eye, can stay for months delivering a therapeutic to block blood vessel growth that causes the disease.

Imagine a future where our bodies contain a variety of tiny robots, keeping us healthy from the inside.

For more information…

It is difficult to imagine the size of anything at the nano scale. Nano is one-billionth of a meter. A strand of human hair is 2.5 nanometers in diameter. To help visualize how tiny these objects are, visit the National Nanotechnology Initiative website. This site also has information how nanotechnology works and what nanotechnology is.

To read about the robots we talked about in this episode, visit Science Daily. The Institute of robotics and Intelligent Systems in Switzerland where this innovative research and development is being done has a website at here.

Doctors Chang and Sretavan have published an article in the Journal of Clinical Neurosurgery entitled “Microtechnology I Medicine: The Emergence of Surgical Microdevices”. It addresses the recent advances and future of the microbot and nanobots in healthcare.

The Internet Movie Database has an entry about the 1966 movie, “Fantastic Voyage,” starring Raquel Welch, Stephen Boyd and Edmond O’Brien.