These Flea-Sized Robots Will Crawl Inside of You
Sun, April 11, 2021

These Flea-Sized Robots Will Crawl Inside of You

The “Millirobots” do not need computer chips or batteries / Photo Credit: Honigjp31 (via Shutterstock)


Scientists at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology in Southern China created robots as small as 1 mm in length, reported Chris Roberts of Observer, a website for metropolitan professionals. Called “Millirobots,” the robots do not need computer chips or batteries. They also have the ability to squeeze into openings half their size, per a study published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, written by Xuemin Du and colleagues, via journal portal Wiley Online Library. Stephen Chen of Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post covered the news of the “robot worm” that will have the ability to roam around the human body via our blood vessels and interact with our nervous system.

The robots’ “soft” construction and magnetic control grants robots “with multimodal locomotion and environment‐adaptive functions,” explained Du and colleagues. The robots’ capabilities also include “crawling, swinging, and rolling,” as well as slicing through water and climbing over obstacles. Xu Tiantian, a scientist on the project, told the SCMP that the robots are like Gu, a form of arcane arts in which small worm-like creatures with the ability to control the minds of humans could be grown in pots. The robots could be used maliciously, but Tiantian said, “We just hope that day will never come.” Last month, their abilities were showcased in a series of videos, in which the almost-invisible device-creatures were made to perform. They spun, swam, and squeezed. Can you imagine these robots doing that in your body or brain?

Just because they can explore the human body and send signals to nerve cells to trigger bodily functions, doesn’t mean the robots would work immediately. The researchers appeared to have focused on the vehicle of the robots rather than their abilities to “communicate” to nerve cells via the electric impulses that surge through our spine and brain. However, the researchers envisioned that the worm-like robots’ purpose is to deliver drugs to a targeted area. Patients with the robots inside them would need to be placed in an “MRI style” machine in order for them to work.

This way, the robots can be perceived as a “marked improvement over invasive brain implants” or other procedures that require surgery.