Miniature Robots Controlled with Magnetic Fields

Miniature Robots Controlled with Magnetic Fields

At Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), a team of researchers has created a miniature robot that can be programmed to execute its desired functions when magnetic fields are applied. Magnetic microparticles were embedded in biocompatible polymers, which are non-toxic and safe for humans.

The new type of robot developed has three spatial axes of movement, improving their capacity to move through six degrees of freedom (DoF). The robots created at NTU outperform several existing small-scale robots. Translational movement along the spatial axes, rotational movement on those three axes, and roll, pitch, and yaw angles are all referred to as degrees of freedom (DoF).

A miniature robot that can swim like a jellyfish and precisely 'pick and put' items has been developed by researchers. Compared to the previous six DoF robots, the new miniature robots can spin 43 times faster than the previously constructed six-degree-of-freedom. They can also be made with soft materials and thus can replicate important mechanical qualities.

Moreover, miniature robots are useful in the field of medicine. The miniature robots may be used to reach confined and enclosed spaces currently inaccessible to existing robots, said the NTU team. The movements of the robots can be controlled remotely by an operator, using a program running on a control computer that precisely varies the strength and direction of magnetic fields generated by an electromagnetic coil system. They may also inspire novel surgical procedures for 'difficult-to-reach' vital organs such as the brain in the future.