Scientists Develop Ingestible Origami Robot

Posted on May 16, 2016

MIT Ingestible Origami Robot

Researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a tiny origami robot that can be ingested by humans. Once inside the body the robot can unfold itself from the swallowed capsule. The robot could remove a swallowed button battery from a child, patch up an internal wound or deliver medication to a specific location.

Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, says in a statement, "It's really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care. For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system. It's really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether."

The robot can propel itself using what's called a "stick-slip" motion. The appendages of the robot stick to a surface through friction when it executes a move, but slip free again when its body flexes. Some of the robot's motion also relies on being propelled by water since the stomach is filled by fluids.

The tiny robot will have a permanent magnet in one of its forward accordion folds. The magnet responds to changing magnetic fields outside the body that control the robot's motion. The magnet can also be used to pick up a button battery located inside a person. The robot is launched into the body with an ice capsule. Take a look:

Photo: Melanie Gonick/MIT

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