Research team at EPFL has developed artificial muscle-powered tiny micromachines that are able to mechanically stimulate cells and microtissue and can carry out complex manipulation tasks under physiological conditions on a microscopic scale.
Improper muscle movements can cause development on various illnesses. This lead the team to build the microscopic tools and soft robotic devices that can be implanted in the body to help regulate different organ movements.
Inspired by body’s locomotor system, the team assembled the tiny robots from microscopic hydrogel components, similar to Lego bricks. The blocks formed a kind of ‘skeleton’ while adding the tendon-like polymers allowed the structure to flex and bend, explained Futurism.
The tiny robots were wirelessly activated by laser beams that triggered a rapid contraction and relaxation cycle that lasts for a few milliseconds. The result is a system of cell-sized artificial bones and muscles that can carry out complex microscopic manipulation tasks within the body.
They can also incorporate microfluidic chips, meaning that they can be used to perform combinatorial tests involving high-throughput chemical and mechanical stimulation in different biological samples, reported Science Daily.
“Our soft actuators contract rapidly and efficiently when activated by near-infrared light. When the entire nanoscale actuator network contracts, it tugs on the surrounding device components and powers the machinery,” said Berna Ozkale, the led author of the study published in Lab on a Chip.
With this technique, scientists were able to remotely activate several microactuators at specified locations producing great results. The microactuators complete each contraction-relaxation cycle in milliseconds with large strain.
Moreover, this technology can prove to be beneficial for doctors who can use them as tiny medical implants to mechanically stimulate tissue or to actuate mechanisms for an on-demand delivery of medicines from within the body.