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Flexible Medical Robot Inspired by Pangolins

The overlapping components of the design could allow it to move flexibly through the body

Scarlett Evans

June 23, 2023

1 Min Read
The metal robot has soft and hard components to make it flexible
The metal robot has soft and hard components to make it flexibleMax Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

Researchers have created a magnetic, soft medical robot with a flexible, overlapping structure inspired by the body of a pangolin, making it versatile and movable despite being made of hard metal components.

The team, from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, said the design could be used for tasks such as internal drug delivery, tumor removal and mitigation of bleeding.

The small scale robot measures 0.7 inches, and is made up of two layers, a soft polymer studded with magnetic particles, and a hard layer made of metal components arranged in overlapping layers. 

Using magnetic fields to control the shape and movement of the robot, the team can turn the structure into a tight ball, making it a potential carrier for medicines through the body - with the team planning on making a smaller iteration in the future to achieve this. 

The medical robot can also emit heat if it is exposed to a high-frequency magnetic field, able to heat up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit. Such a feature is useful for certain procedures that require high thermal energy, such as treating thrombosis, stopping bleeding and removing tumor tissue. 

“The pangolin robot…could one day reach even the narrowest and most sensitive regions in the body in a minimally invasive and gentle way and emit heat as needed,” the team said. “That is a vision of the future.”

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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