Microrobot To Swim Like Bacteria With Flagellar Propeller

Tiny microrobots are under development at Monash University in Australia; a remarkable micromotor will allow them to swim using a flagellar propeller, just like the E. coli bacterium shown below.


(E. coli bacterium powered by flagella)

Dr. James Friend's goal is to build a device no wider than 250 microns - that's the width of two human hairs - that would be capable of swimming through the human body.

He and his team have already built a linear motor the size of a salt crystal. With a $300,000 grant from the Australian Research Council, Dr. Friend believes that his team will be able to reduce the motor to the necessary size within three years.


(Dr. James Friend with micromotor apparatus)

According to Dr. Friend, the main difference between the microrobot motor and a conventional electromagnetic type is that the latter spins much faster but has much less torque. In an email interview with Technovelgy.com, he remarked:

"The swimming robot idea in and of itself has indeed been around a long time---since at least the 1950's anyway, and our motor is of a scale and has the performance characteristics needed to actually make this sort of thing possible.

Regarding performance, as electromagnetic (EM) motors are reduced in size, they tend to have far higher rotation speeds: a typical 3 mm diameter EM motor will spin at over 20,000 rpm. Worse, the torque of such motors could be measured in micronewton-mm, only useful if one also employs a gearbox. We're using ultrasonic motor technology here, which offer higher torques at lower speeds. Traditionally that has always been the limitation of any of this technology: the motor. If you pick up a typical electronic parts catalogue, you'll find all sorts of sensors and electrical components, but very few of them actually produce physical motion. Those that do are certainly not solid state, and this is a need we're hoping to address."

A design for the prototype microrobot is shown below; Dr. Friend states "We've operating larger mm-sized prototypes of the motor, and have a fairly good handle on the analysis, which turns out to be quite complicated for twisted-beam structures."


(Microrobot design [Dr. James Friend])

The micromotor that Dr. Friend and his team have designed for their propulsion system should be smaller overall than a similar microrobot propulsion system described earlier this month by Dr. Moshe Shoham (see Propulsion System for 'Fantastic Voyage' Robot). Dr. Friend points out that his team has a "motor suitable for his [Shoham's] or our propulsion system that is far smaller than the technology he's [Shoham's] wanting to use."

Ultimately, tiny microrobots would give surgeons the ability to avoid traumatic and risky procedures in some cases. A remotely-controlled microrobot would extend a physician's ability to diagnose and treat patients in a minimally invasive way.

Other sources for this story include this article and this Monash University press release.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/29/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.' - Stanislaw Lem, 1954

SpotMini Robot Dog, Autonomous And On Sale In 2019
Great, an autonomous slamhound.

RoboFly Is Laser-Powered, Adorable
Don't swat this fly!

Healthy Fast Food Courtesy Of Robot Chefs
'The electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.' - Elizabeth Bellamy, 1899.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.'

SpotMini Robot Dog, Autonomous And On Sale In 2019
Great, an autonomous slamhound. It is cute, though.

RoboFly Is Laser-Powered, Adorable
Don't swat this fly!

MSG Sphere Las Vegas, ala Star Wars
'The smoky globe, hung in the vault, was shot with colored light...'

Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...

MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!

UberAIR Asks For Skytaxi Landing Prototypes
You know you want to ride in one.

Boring Tunnel Almost Ready
Your underground future is calling!

Handheld Human Skin Printer
It outputs a thin wad of uniflesh.

Healthy Fast Food Courtesy Of Robot Chefs
'The electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'

Mass Production Of In Vitro Meat From One Sample
They're Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Retinal Prosthesis Uses Organic Printing Inks
We can rebuild you - well, your eyes, maybe.

Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.

Squid-Like Robots Soon To Be 3D Printable
'It was a chemotactic artificial jellyfish designed to slither...'

Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.