Drawing on an understanding of how slugs, leeches and earthworms traverse their environments and grasp objects, a team of Case Western Reserve University biologists and engineers has developed two flexible robotic devices that could make invasive medical procedures such as colonoscopies safer for patients and easier for doctors to administer.
The researchers from Cases departments of biology, mechanical and aerospace engineering and electrical engineering and computer science have obtained a patent for a new endoscopic device and a provisional patent for a gripping device that may have industrial as well as medical uses. "We have taken our understanding of biology to use it as an inspiration for novel robotic devices," said Hillel Chiel, Case professor of biology and principal investigator on the project. "By taking nature seriously, we have created novel, flexible and adaptive devices that will be useful for a variety of applications."
The endoscopic device, constructed of three muscle-like actuators made of latex bladders and surrounded by nylon mesh, looks like a nine-inch long hollow worm. The actuator segments, inflating and contracting in sequence, propel the device forward, mimicking the undulating movement of slugs and worms. "This device can literally worm its way into complicated places or into curving tubing such as the colon," Chiel explained.
Susan Griffith | EurekAlert!
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