Tiny, Tumbling Origami Robots Could Help with Targeted Drug Delivery

Tue, 14 Jun 2022 11:10:00 GMT
Scientific American - Technology

The design’s origami pattern creates the flexibility needed to deliver compounds to specific areas...

A new kind of hollow, pea-sized robot can roll, flip and jump to navigate its surroundings.

The robot's ability to overcome physical obstacles stems from a unique design: creased in an origami arrangement called a Kresling pattern and topped with a magnet.

The Kresling pattern looks like a series of stacked right triangles wrapping around the robot's belly, making it resemble a ridged and slightly squashed cylinder.

A small hole at one end offers access to the robot's hollow center, which can hold a small payload: an object or some liquid.

Developing a new kind of device that could generate and manipulate the correct kind of magnetic field is also an option, Zhao adds, but it would need to incorporate medical imaging like an MRI machine does to track the robot's location within the body.

Some versions of the new robot have a second magnet on the opposite side of its soft, cylindrical structure.

An operator controlling the magnetic field generates a small amount of rotational force between the magnets, which squeezes the robot's thin plastic body.

The researchers demonstrated that the robot can maneuver through the dry environment of an empty pig's stomach, as well as one filled with liquid.

If the robot encountered a larger obstacle, its operator could briefly increase the magnetic field's strength to make the bot jump.

The new, more adept origami design could be like a blueprint for future tiny robots, Zhao says.