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Swallowed a Battery? Ingestible Origami Robot Made from Pig Gut Can Remove It, Stop Stomach Bleeding

Aug 02, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
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A tiny "origami" robot may just save your child's life from stomach bleeding and imminent death.

Infants and young children love to explore. So whether it is a juicy strawberry or a shiny battery, they will put it in their mouths out of curiosity.

The Problem: Death by Battery Ingestion

Lithium batteries, also known as button batteries usually found in toys and watches, may look harmless, but according to Cleveland Clinic, the batteries are loaded with dangerous chemicals.

When ingested, these chemicals form reactions that can be very harmful to a child's digestive system. It can even burn a hole through the throat and lead to serious internal bleeding and death.

The Solution: Ingestible Origami Robot

In an attempt to stop the growing cases of death by battery ingestion, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed an ingestible robot as the latest microsurgery tool named the origami robot because the accordion-shaped gadget gets folded up and frozen into an ice capsule.

"You swallow the robot, and when it gets to your stomach the ice melts and the robot unfolds," Daniela Rus, a professor who directs MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, told the Associated Press in an interview. "Then, we can direct it to a very precise location."

The tiny object can be used to remove foreign objects in the stomach, deliver medicine and patch up wounds to halt the bleeding via the "stick-slip" motion. According to MIT's press release, the 'stic-slip' motion is a process "in which its appendages stick to a surface through friction when it executes a move, but slip free again when its body flexes to change its weight distribution".

Robot Made From Pig Gut?

The robot is a successor of the initial robot the MIT invented last year, but the material used to form the structure of the new robot is quite different. To ensure the stiffness and malleability of the robot as it enters the fluid-filled stomach, dried pig intestine used in sausage casings was used to form the robot's biodegradable frame.

"They tried rice paper and sugar paper and hydrogel paper, all sorts of different materials," Rus said. "We found that sausage casing has the best properties when it comes to folding and unfolding and controllability."

The robot is still at the experimental stage and is being tested in an artificial stomach made of silicone.

Records at National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C., show that between 2005 and 2014, 11,940 children under the age of 6 swallowed batteries, 15 of those died while 101 suffered major medical problems.

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