Button batteries should be kept out of the reach of children, but swallowing accidents still happen – so many that parents will be glad to hear about this new discovery.
Researchers created a pill that turns into a tiny robot once it ends up in a person’s stomach. As it crawls across the stomach wall, the pill-turned-robot is able to retrieve a single-cell button battery, and also patch wounds, if necessary.
The invention could give peace of mind to thousands of parent. In U.S. alone, more than 3,500 incidents are reported annually of swallowed button batteries. A vast majority of those cases involve toddlers.
While most of the batteries that accidentally get ingested can safely pass through the system, some may leak and cause bleeding, tissue burns, and even death.
Thanks to an international team of researchers from MIT, the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, and the University of Sheffield in the UK, some of the challenges posed by the origami robot have been conquered.
This is the latest device developed by Daniela Rus, director of MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She’s an expert on origami robots after working for years on researching and building them.
What are some of the obstacles in creating an ingestible robot? Rus said in a statement that “for applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system.” Placing and controlling a robot inside the body is particularly difficult if the robot is attached to a tether.
The solution was to control the robot’s movements with magnetic fields applied externally. Its construction enables the tiny robot to move along a surface in the fashion of an inch worm.
But it can also swim, which is a useful skill to have inside the stomach which can contain liquid. For testing, the team created a synthetic stomach out of silicone rubber, with all the mechanical properties of a pig’s stomach.
The robot – enclosed in an ice capsule – was placed in a mixture of water and lemon juice that mimicked stomach fluids. Even in this particular environment, the robot had no trouble traveling to a button battery and picking it up with the help of the attached magnet.
The research will be presented next week at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm, Sweden.
Image Source: Gizmodo