In a study published in the journal Science Robotics, scientists have developed a way to magnetically control each member of a swarm of magnetic devices to perform specific, unique tasks.
"Our method may enable complex manipulations inside the human body," said study lead author Jürgen Rahmer, a physicist at Philips Innovative Technologies in Hamburg, Germany said in a statement.
A lego bot that can move each limb independently of the other dut to magnetically controlled screws placed in layers of magnetic field (c) livescience.com
The researchers said, they were able to manipulate hundreds of microscopic robots at once. Due to this technology, magnetically controlled swarms of microscopic robots might one day help fight cancer inside the body.
In the lab, the experts created a number of tiny identical magnetic screws. Then, they built a strong, uniform magnetic field to freeze groups of these magnetic screws in place, also some weak spots where the screws can move. The weak rotating magnetic field that researchers have created could make these free screws spin.
"One could think of screw-driven mechanisms that perform tasks inside the human body without the need for batteries or motors," Rahmer told Live Science.
How I imagined the tiny robots in the body
These magnetic swarms could be embedded within injectable microscopic pills. Using magnetic fields, experts can make certain screws spin to open the pills. Thus, targeting and damaging only tumors.
This technique would keep healthy tissues safe, leading to greatly reduction of harmful side effects. Physicians can also use magnets to essentially switch the pills off, once the pills have delivered the therapeutic dose of radiation.
The magnetic army can as well be used as medical implants that change over time. As people with implants heal, magnetic fields could help alter the shape of implants to better adjust to the bodies of patients
The researchers are now looking forward to developing the technology, so it can be used in many other fields, such as X-ray and ultrasound.