We have previously reported on implantable micro-devices that can be directed to specific locations in the body. Now comes word that researchers at the NanoRobotics Laboratory at École Polytechnique de Montréal have developed a solar-powered micro-device less than the size of one tenth of a millimeter in square area to perform basic sensing of the surrounding environment and indirectly control the movement of bacteria in a petri dish.
Dr. Sylvain Martel, the Director of the NanoRobotics Laboratory, presented his lab’s results International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Kobe Japan.
This sensor measures the surrounding pH level of the solution it is in. As the pH rises, an electromagnetic pulse is emitted by the micro-device. A computer detects this emission and directs magnetically-sensitive bacteria towards the device. Upon arrival, the bacteria then push the micro-device closer to higher pH concentration regions. Because of the size limitation of the device a photovoltaic, or solar cell, is employed to power the sensor and the electromagnetic pulsing.
“It’s like having a propulsion engine on demand,” Dr. Sylvain Martel remarked.
This video, from MIT Technology Review, shows ~3,000 bacteria maneuvering a V-shaped robot around via computer control system.
This is a continuation of the lab’s previous work in developing micro-devices phage-based biosensors that are propelled by magnetic fields under computer guidance. The types of sensors and controlled movement of bacteria have great potential in medical applications of the future including pathogen detection and focused treatment.
MIT Technology Review: Tiny Machine Commands a Swarm of Bacteria
École Polytechnique de Montréal: Nanorobotics Laboratory
Flashback : Tiny Implantable Devices to Help Treat Chronic Pain
(hat tip: Engadget)