Tiny Robot Bugs in Development for Medical Relief

March 28, 2022 – When doctors can’t easily reach someone – whether they’re in a war zone or a natural disaster – bug robots are being developed to come to the rescue.

The same things that make some insects, such as invasive pests, are their tiny size and resistance to harsh environmental conditions. It can make them ideal healthcare providers when doctors can’t easily reach patients.

Prototypes of beetle

Engineers have created prototypes of beetle robots that mimic the movements of insects. These creepy crawls were created using artificial muscle technology, allowing the robots to bend, flex, and move by jumping across surfaces, as many insects do. So they can get into hard-to-reach places and survive where living creatures could not.

“It’s like loading and firing an arrow from a bow – the robots capture energy to store energy and then release it. It is an impulsive burst to jump forward,” says Ravi Shankar, Ph.D., professor of industrial engineering. Pittsburgh, whose laboratory led the study.

A team of engineers came up with a curved shape that allows the beetles to store energy for fast movement. This allows the robots to operate with just a few volts of electricity.

The team published the results of the first tests of their robotic beetle prototype in a magazine. Advanced material technology. Their main success is that they have developed a way that cricket-sized robots can move with speed and precision using artificial muscles. A technology that typically moves more like a tortoise than a hare.

The engineers say that the versatile movements and lightweight design should allow these robots to navigate a wide range of terrain, whether it’s moving dunes, rocky cliffs, or choppy water.

Disaster relief

Shankar said it could deploy these robots to search for injured people in hard-to-reach places, draw blood, take the temperature. Perform other basic assessments in disaster relief. And they could bring miniature medical equipment to provide emergency first aid in the field.

Engineers are working to make the microbots even smaller to be more agile and overcome rugged terrain.

“The possibilities will increase if we can develop smaller versions of these bugs or use swarms of such bots,” says Shankar. “The underlying mechanisms we have studied here can be miniaturized by at least one more magnitude.”

Imagine microscopic robotic bugs moving inside blood vessels. Shankar says they can help with surgery or form muscle tissue compatible with the human body to heal or repair injuries.

“Once we get to the millimeter or submillimeter scale. He says that there are extraordinary opportunities for actuation and manipulation within the human body,” he says.

For now, this is just a guess based on a promising prototype that works well in the lab. But, according to Shankar, “some of these ideas motivate us to move forward.”

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