Researchers at Monash University, led by Prof James Friend, have developed prototypes of micro-motors small enough to be injected into the human bloodstream.
Their work could help make safer a range of complex surgical operations to treat stroke victims, confront hardened arteries or address blockages in the bloodstream.
The Australian researchers harnessed the power of piezoelectricity to create the microbot motors, which are just 250µm, a quarter of a millimetre, wide.
Methods of minimally invasive surgery, such as keyhole surgery and a range of operations that use catheters, are preferred by surgeons and patients because of the damage avoided when contrasted against cut-and-sew operations.
Serious damage during minimally invasive surgery is, however, not always avoidable and surgeons are often limited by, for example, the width of a catheter tube that, in serious cases, can puncture narrow arteries.
Remote controlled miniature robots small enough to swim up arteries could save lives by reaching parts of the body, such as a stroke-damaged cranial artery, that catheters have previously been unable to reach. With the right sensor attached to the microbot motor, the surgeon’s view of an artery can be enhanced.
A video of the motor is available on YouTube here, while a paper entitled, ‘Piezoelectric ultrasonic resonant motor with stator diameter less than 250µm: the Proteus motor’ (B Watson et al 2009 J Micromech Microeng 19 022001), is available free online here.