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One Paragraph on Origami Surgical Robots
New experiments conducted as a simulation of the human oesophagus and stomach, have shown that a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound. Could we already be seeing the future in the technology of surgeries? This isn’t the first time that this type of technology has been introduced to the world. A predecessor was introduced last year at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation. Even though this years new robot is a successor to one reported at the same conference last year, the design of its body is significantly different. Like its predecessor, it can propel itself using what's called a "stick-slip" motion, in which its appendages stick to a surface through friction when it executes a move, but slip free again when its body flexes to change its weight distribution. Also like its predecessor -- and like several other origami robots from the Rus group -- the new robot consists of two layers of structural material sandwiching a material that shrinks when heated. A pattern of slits in the outer layers determines how the robot will fold when the middle layer contracts. It’s also possible to compress this robot into the size of a swallowable pill, and once in the stomach, the robot can fully unfold. The robot moves in the stomach in two ways: 1) A “stick-slip” motion (80% of the time) and 2) forward motion by propelling water/ stomach acid (20% of the time). This robot was essentially designed to extract swallowed button batteries. Every year, 3,500 swallowed button batteries are reported in the U.S. alone. Button batteries are digested normally, but if they come into prolonged contact with the tissue of the oesophagus or stomach, they can cause an electric current that produces hydroxide, which burns the tissue. This is a better way to extract unwanted objects which may have been swallowed in the body. Hopefully future research will be able to make robots that can carry out more complex operations in the stomach and oesophagus.
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