They make a liquid robot that can join together and split apart completely. The goal is for them to be able to carry medicine to any part of the body.
It sounds like something from science fiction, but it’s a very real thing. A group of researchers from Soochow University in Taiwan have made a liquid robot that is still in the lab phase. One that can be shaped, broken up, and put back together again.
Tiny drops of a magnetic substance were used to make this robot that is made of liquid. Its full size, before it breaks down, is no more than 1 cm. In particular, magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles were used to make this. Then, these things were put in oil. Which, in the end, gives this ferrofluid a soft make-up.
This composition is what, in fact, makes it possible for this little bit of creativity to change the way it is put together to get to the point that has been mentioned. You can get past almost any problem that gets in your way. Or at least that is what the research team that is doing it wants to find out.
The research team has used the composition of the liquid robot itself to control how it moves. The power on this small device is kept going by a set of spherical magnets. The devices also give it the ability to move and change shape as needed.
The video from Science shows that the small liquid robot splits into a swarm and then comes back together. In the example, their skills are tested in a maze by looking at all of the possible paths and then joining them.
What a liquid robot can do for you
This liquid robot has a lot of options, one of which is related to the study of soft robots, but the research team is still deciding between the two. On the one hand, clinical trials are used to check and make chemical reactions in the lab. Especially when studying viruses or other small things.
But the research team has focused most on how it can be used for medicine. Localized drug delivery in people could be done with the help of a liquid robot. The machine could hold the patient’s medicines, which, when swallowed, would go to the place where they should be injected. It would be able to move through the arteries or capillaries of the human body because it is small and can change shape and get around obstacles. And then, to get to the organs or tissues that need it.
“Another use could be to remove blood clots in the brain that can cause strokes, but it would be hard to make a magnetic field strong enough to move the robot precisely inside the brain.”Bradley Nelson from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich
The research team still needs to find answers to some important questions, though. The small size of the liquid robot makes it hard to transport the doses of medicine that the patient needs. This is in addition to the fact that it can be scaled up and costs a lot. Also, the system of magnets needed to control the machine from a distance must be strong enough to work through the tissues of a person’s body.