Scientists have developed a magnetic slime robot that could be deployed inside the body to retrieve accidentally swallowed objects | tech news

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What would you do if your child swallowed an object? In most cases, foreign object ingestion is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention if the child is being treated by a doctor. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove the swallowed object.

Now scientists have developed a slime robot that grabs objects in your body. And yes, it’s true and not an April Fool’s joke. News of the discovery was first published yesterday in New Scientist magazine’s article, which falls on April 1 in New Zealand and Australia, leading some to dismiss it as a joke.

The slime robot was developed by a group of scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The robot is made of magnetic slime with a pudding-like consistency with the ability to navigate narrow passages, grab objects, and repair broken circuits. The robot could one day be used inside the human body to retrieve accidentally swallowed items like button batteries.

In a research paper published March 25, Drs. Li Zhangand and his colleagues mixed neodymium magnetic particles with borax, a common household cleaner, and polyvinyl alcohol, a type of resin, to form a controllable slime. The study shows that the robot could be ideal for making operations less invasive or for administering drugs in a targeted manner.

Elastic robots that can manipulate objects and fluid-based robots that can navigate in tight spaces already exist, but robots that combine both properties are less common. Controllable by a magnetic field, the slime can navigate through tight spaces and grab objects, making it ideal for potential uses in the body.

Below is a video simulation of the magnetic slime robot in action.

Below is the summary of the research.

Miniature soft-bodied magnetic robots enable non-invasive access into confined spaces and provide ideal solutions for minimally invasive surgery, micromanipulation and targeted drug delivery.

However, existing elastomer-based (silicone) and fluid-based (ferrofluid or liquid metal) miniature magnetically actuated soft robots have limitations. Due to its limited deformability, the small, soft, elastomer-based robot cannot navigate through a highly constrained environment.

In contrast, liquid-based soft robots, while more deformable, are also limited by the unstable shape of the liquid itself and are therefore poorly adapted to the environment. In this study, magnetically actuated slime robots on non-Newtonian fluid are demonstrated that exhibit both the conformability of elastomer-based robots and reconfigurable significant deformation capabilities of fluid-based robots.

The robots can pass through narrow 1.5 mm diameter channels and maneuver on multiple substrates in complex environments. The proposed slime robot implements various functions, including grasping solid objects, swallowing and transporting harmful things, monitoring human movements, and switching and repairing circuits. This study proposes the design of novel soft-body robots and improves their future applications in biomedical, electronic and other fields.

You can buy the full research paper here.


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