We’re already nearing an age where small robots will be able to operate on the human body, but what about microscopic ones?

The latest development made by an MIT research team has been the creation of cell-sized robots that can be used to detect diseases in the human beings.

Explaining how they were able to achieve the feat, MIT’s researchers paired microscopic electronic circuits with colloids, which are insoluble particles capable of being suspended in liquid.

“We wanted to figure out methods to graft complete, intact electronic circuits onto colloidal particles… Colloids can access environments and travel in ways that other materials can’t,” said MIT’s Michael Strano in a blog post about the cell-sized robots.

According to MIT, these devices can sense their environment, along with storing data and carrying out computational tasks that they’ve been programmed to.

As far as the real-world applications go, MIT’s researchers say the cell-sized robots could be deployed in the air, for example, and search for any harmful gases that may be there.

Another possible application could be the early detection of illnesses in infants, or indeed identifying more precisely what is ailing a person should the symptoms be too broad and difficult to accurately diagnose.

It’s unclear what the longevity for such devices are, but the researchers were able to embed a tiny photodiode into them in order to provide a small amount of electricity to power its various operations and tasks.

They can also be found in the body thanks to retroreflectors to assist in the robots being located regardless of which part of the body they flow to.

There is no timeline on when MIT will have these cell-sized robots ready for the real-world, with Strano noting that this is still a very “new field” of robotics that has been created.


[Image – MIT]
When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.