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Robotics Science

Nano-motors For Microbots 77

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-things-in-micro-packages dept.
Smivs writes "The BBC are reporting on the development of tiny motors the size of a grain of salt which could power surgical Microbots. Some surgical procedures are hindered by the size or inflexibility of current instruments. For example, the labyrinthine network of blood vessels in the brain prevents the use of catheters threaded through larger blood vessels. Researchers have long envisioned that trends of miniaturisation would lead to tiny robots that could get around easily in the body. The problem until now has been powering them. Conventional electric motors do not perform as well as they are scaled down in size. As they approach millimetre dimensions, they barely have the power to overcome the resistance in their bearings. Now, research reported in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering has demonstrated a motor about 1/4mm wide, about the width of two human hairs."
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Nano-motors For Microbots

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  • Seriously. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @01:59AM (#26557103) Journal
    I for one, welcome our new surgical microbot wielding medical overlo--I mean "doctors".
  • Sizes (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by Thanshin (1188877)

    a motor about 1/4mm wide, about the width of two human hairs."

    Seriously? People are unable to visualize mm?

    Who can pass basic schooling without ever using a ruler?

    Maybe their's was marked in human hairs, however gross that would be. Maybe the next unit was a finger? An eye?

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      Maybe their's happened to know's the proper's use of apostrophe's.
    • Re:Sizes (Score:5, Funny)

      by Hal_Porter (817932) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:20AM (#26557185)

      In America they have the imperial system. They wouldn't know what fuck a millimeter is. They call them "Eight hairs".

      • by bronney (638318)

        You know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in France? :)

      • Re:Sizes (Score:5, Informative)

        by ya really (1257084) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:07AM (#26557637)

        As an American physics student, I'm insulted :p, but this is generally correct for most Americans. Hooray, lets count in base 12 or base 16 or "base whatever feels nice." Base 10 you say? No way that could ever be easier.

        Though I'd like to add at least we stick with a system, the Brits seem to have an identity crisis where they cant seem to decide if they like the Imperial System or Metric. Pint glasses, miles per hour, liters, pounds (and not the monetary kind), etc etc. Now that's pretty crazy.

        • by rdnetto (955205)
          Yeah, but Britain they're *traditional*. I'm not sure about Canada, but in Australia we just use the metric system.
        • by e-Flex (1219042)
          They (you over there) are apparently using the metric system more and more all the time, like in the restaurants my brother used to work and go to school in.
        • I find it ironic that The US was one of the earliest innovators of simple easy to use base ten money, and we've been unable to convince anyone to use base ten for anything else since.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smoker2 (750216)
          Metric measurements are precise, but not everything has preciseness as it's main aim. In an analogue world, things like half, quarter, eighth, 16th are more easily understood than 0.275, 1.1756 etc etc. You can't divide anything using base 10 for very long before you end up using a decimal point. Real world items don't have decimal points. Divide a loaf of bread between 8 people, do you work out what 0.125 of the loaf is then weigh each piece off or do you just split into halves repeatedly ? Fractions are s
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mangu (126918)

            Divide a loaf of bread between 8 people, do you work out what 0.125 of the loaf is then weigh each piece off or do you just split into halves repeatedly ?

            That's really useful to know. But one of the guys isn't hungry, how do we split the loaf among seven people?

            take Pi for instance. 22/7 is exact - 3.142 is far from exact

            Huh? Do you live in some state that has legislated the value of pi? In my calculator, (3.142 - pi) equals 0.000407, while (22 / 7 - pi) equals 0.00126, which means the decimal approximation

            • by againjj (1132651)

              take Pi for instance. 22/7 is exact - 3.142 is far from exact

              Huh? Do you live in some state that has legislated the value of pi?

              Probably Indiana.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            take Pi for instance. 22/7 is exact
            Pi is irrational. That means no fraction is exactly correct.

          • precise has to do with the measurement. Not the scale. You can be as precise as you need to using imperial units (you just use bigger denominators).
            Also, 22/7 is not exact. It is accurate to 3 significant digits. Since pi is an irrational number, it can't be written as a fraction.
            But I do agree, for many everyday uses fractions tend to be more natural.
        • sure divide in base 10 by 3.
          go on i'll wait.
          meanwhile a third of a foot is 4 inches,
          a third of a circle is 120 degrees,

          number systems which are easy to divide enable builders to complete building faster than non-divisible counting systems.
          I suppose the base10 crowd divides circles into 1000 degrees?

      • "In America they have the imperial system. They wouldn't know what fuck a millimeter is. They call them "Eight hairs"."

        As in "my girlfriend's Brazilian has a millimeter"?

        • by ani23 (899493)
          i didn't know world of warcraft characters had so many customisation options
      • by Detritus (11846)
        I know what 5.56 mm is. Say hello to my little friend.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      A thick human hair is about 0.18 mm, whereas a thin human hair may be as thin as 0.017 mm - , so the thickness of two human hairs may vary by more than a factor of 10 !

      That's like saying, it's the size of a common green pea (about 0.5cm diameter) when in fact it's the size of a medium size citrus lime. That's like comparing Jessica Alba [wordpress.com] with This unkown person [weirdspot.com]
      • Re:Sizes (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:00AM (#26558023)

        That's like saying, it's the size of a common green pea (about 0.5cm diameter) when in fact it's the size of a medium size citrus lime. That's like comparing Jessica Alba with This unkown person

        For some reason, I'd guess one or both links are nsfw.

  • by Centurix (249778) <centurixNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:03AM (#26557119) Homepage

    "tiny motors the size of a grain of salt which could power surgical Microbots"

    Or, they could power grains of salt. Hours of fun at the dinner table.

  • I'd be impressed to see the bearings of a millimeter-sized engine.

  • bloodwork (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:30AM (#26557233)
    Can I finally have my artery-clearing, cancer-attacking, medicine-carrying, and blood-clotting robots that will imediately improve my lifespan, quality of life, and allow me to eat all the cheese potato chips I like?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by master5o1 (1068594)
      Until the robots shutdown inside your arteries and become artificial-cholesterol.
      • Speaker: That is when we send in the nano-sized repair bots. Who repair and/or disassemble the defective units...
        [Enter aide, stage left] An aide walks briskly into the room and heads for the speaker.
        Aide: (whispering)
        Speaker: Oh...
        Aide: (whispering)
        Speaker: ...Hmm...
        [Exit aide, stage left] The aide leaves.
        Speaker: ... nevermind.

    • My guess is they'd end up as a death machine network first, and cure for heart disease later. And it will be patented. But the bootleg version from china will be available for less and include an FM radio.
  • by NoobixCube (1133473) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:46AM (#26557301) Journal

    Am I the only one who can't help but think of the parasites Fry got from the sandwich?

    • by eltaco (1311561)
      I'm thinking rather of the outer limits episode, where a guy who was sick had his scientist buddy inject him with nanites to heal him. in the beginning it all went well and the formerly sick guy was feeling better and better. then he started to mutate; cross-ribs, eyes in the back of his head, etc etc. apparently the nanites didn't just decide what was dead or diseased tissue, they actually decided how they could make the host "better".

      it's basically a reiteration of the whole advanced / self-replicating
  • by schwillis (1073082) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @02:46AM (#26557303)
    Now they can make the worlds smallest animatronic singing bass fish.
  • by EdZ (755139) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @03:29AM (#26557497)
    0.25mm is hardly nanoscale. It's not even milli-scale!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      These ones are better. [wikipedia.org]

    • 0.25mm is hardly nanoscale. It's not even milli-scale!
      True, but it's small enough for an awful lot of surgical purposes. It could be enough to remove (in very small pieces) a lot of previously inoperable tumors, for instance.

  • by JakartaDean (834076) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @04:11AM (#26557651) Journal
    Isn't that still too big to get through a capillary? Eventually they'll still get stuck somewhere, I'd imagine, and then you get a little tiny blood clot in a capillary. Maybe that's not a problem in the brain, I don't know. I still don't think you'd want millions of them blocking random capillaries and killing random nerve cells.
  • by AaronLawrence (600990) * on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:29AM (#26558145)

    From TFA:

    Take a look however at the motors, and there are few changes from the motors available in the 1950s.

    Er, maybe the basic design is similar, but motors are extraordinarily smaller (such as the 5mm wide specimens used in radio control kits nowadays) and there are new designs as well, such as stepper motors.

    I think this article slightly exaggerates to make this seem more exciting...

    Another random thought: this article assumes that a rotating motor is still needed, but why? If bacteria and other things move around by other means, maybe the only efficient methods of movement at small scales are NOT rotating?

  • I am not a molecular technologist. However I'm fair sure that "grain of salt" does not equal "nano"

  • Just power them like RFID. Put some wire coils on the back and induce current in the coils with EM flux.

    If my underwear has this technology, surely these medical researchers can get a hold of it.

  • As a person in psychology, I think these advances could yield different and/or more precise diagnostic tests for people suffering from psychological illnesses. It may lead to a better understanding of how the brain works. It could lead to many exciting studies in the neuro-psychological field. Now the questions are, what will be done with them and once we are done doing whatever it is we are doing with the microbots, how do we get them out?
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:13PM (#26561655)

    If you do the math, the prospects for tiny motors is supremely dismal.

    You see there's a basic problem-- the torque goes down as the cube of the motor's length, while the friction goes down as the square. In addition magnetics don't work well when you get down to the size of magnetic domains.

    By the time you get down to the grain of salt size, motors can just barely overcome friction. Any smaller and they can't even turn over. You might notice in TFA there's no clear indication they've gotten one to rotate at all. Not surprising.

    I would not bet any agricultural properties on this.

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