A Robot Unfolds From an Ingestible Capsule to Remove a Button Battery in a Stomach and Patch Internal Wounds
Researchers at MIT have created a small origami robot that once ingested can be unfolded and steered by external magnetic fields across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery (which can burn through tissue) or patch an internal wound.
The robot was created using heat-sensitive material around structural material that formed an accordion. Once in the stomach it can unfold and move around like a fin.
This robot is not tethered to any equipment outside the body and therefore is easier to control using a magnetic field.
How big a problem could swallowed batteries possibly be?
Bigger than you think: 3,300 button-sized batteries a year are accidentally eaten in the US according to the scientists.
If they become embedded in the stomach lining they can cause inflammation and become quite serious.
While experimenting, the MIT team found that a button battery left on a side of ham could burn its way into the flesh.
“Within half an hour, the battery was fully submerged in the ham. So that made me realise that, yes, this is important. If you have a battery in your body, you really want it out as soon as possible,” said Daniela Rus of MIT, who helped design it.
“Once inside the stomach, the robot could be directed to attach to the battery, it could lift the battery from the stomach coating and then eliminate it through the digestive system,” she said.
It’s made out of pork
The origami construction is built from a safe-to-ingest material in case something goes wrong.
It’s made out of stiff pork casings of the kind you might find on a hot dog.
“We spent a lot of time at Asian markets and the Chinatown market looking for materials,” MIT’s Shuguang Li said.
Until now, the intrepid explorer has only been tested in a rubber stomach full of lemon juice and water, but in vivo tests are on the way – and humans won’t be far behind if that goes well.
Source: MIT & IEEE