Right tool, wrong job

Miniscule motor swims through the bloodstream

the tiny piezoelectric motor is just 250 micrometers or a quarter of a millimetre wide – that’s around 2.5 times the width of a human hair.

The motor could be injected into the bloodstream to make current methods of minimally invasive surgery such as keyhole surgery safer and more effective.

Despite the obvious advantages of minimally invasive procedures over cut and sew methods, there is still room for minimizing risk according to research team leader Professor James Friend.

“Serious damage during minimally invasive surgery is however not always avoidable and surgeons are often limited by the width of a catheter tube for example, which in serious cases, can fatally puncture narrow arteries,” Professor Friend said.

The micro-motor would carry tiny cameras and sensor equipment and could access parts of the body, like a stroke-damaged artery in the brain, that are beyond the reach of catheters.

To achieve its swimming motion, the vibrating motor is attached to a spiral tail that spins at up to 1295 rpm and acts as a kind of propeller to drive the device forward in a motion similar to that used by bacterial flagella.

250 microns, aka a quarter-millimeter, aka 1/100 of an inch, is pretty small, but if the picture that goes with this thing is anywhere near accurate, the device itself is still several millimeters long. Just the shape to get stuck in some blood-vessel curve.

Oh, and did I mention that I’d rather not have a tiny propellor rotating 20 times a second in contact with my blood cells and the inside of plaque-laden veins and arteries?

Seems to me that might be a kind of useful thing to have on the end of a laparascopic catheter, though.


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