November 28, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

A group of researchers are developing a tiny foldable robot, to be used as a non-invasive tool in medicine.

origami robot in hand

Next time you accidentally swallow a button or your favourite piece of lego, don’t worry; soon you would be able to swallow a tiny robot to go get it for you.  Researchers at MIT, University of Sheffield and the Tokyo Insitute of Technology have been developing an origami robot, which has been demonstrated (in simulations of a human esophagus and stomach) to be able to dislodge a swallowed battery or patch a wound.

Using external magnetic fields it is able to unfold itself from a capsule, crawl across the stomach wall and perform these complex little tasks. Rather than waiting for things to pass naturally, which is sometimes not an option when things are stuck in your intestinal tract, or relying other invasive methods to patch up a wound, this wee robot will soon be able to do it for you.

origami robot and ice capsule
the origami robot (right) and its ingestible ice capsule (left)

Watch a video of the robot in action below:

Eva Spielvogel is studying for and MSc in Science and Media Production

Images: Melanie Gonick/MIT