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News Release

UC San Diego Nanorobots highlighted in Science Robotics

San Diego, CA, March 13, 2017 -- The Tiny Robots Will See You Now. That’s the headline for a recent news story in IEEE Spectrum by Megan Scudellari that highlights a review paper written by UC San Diego researchers in the journal Science Robotics. This new journal is published by AAAS, the publisher of Science magazine.

The title of the actual Science Robotics review is Micro/nanorobots for biomedicine: Delivery, surgery, sensing, and detoxification. It’s authored by five researchers affiliated with the Department of NanoEngineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, including professor and department chair Joseph Wang and professor Liangfang Zhang. Both professors are members of the UC San Diego Contextual Robotics Institute.

The other three authors are Jinxing LiBerta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila and Wei Gao.

Click Here for a HighResolution Version

Figure 1 from the paper: Actuation mechanisms and potential biomedical applications of various types of micro/nanorobots. Image courtesy of: AAAS/Science Robotics. 

(A) Typical propulsion mechanisms of micro/nanoscale robots. (B) Chemically powered microrocket. Scale bar, 50 μm. (C) Magnetically actuated helical nanoswimmer; copyright 2009 American Chemical Society]. Scale bar, 200 nm. (D) Acoustically propelled nanowire motor; copyright 2013 American Chemical Society]. Scale bar, 200 nm. (E) Biologically propelled sperm hybrid microrobot. (F) Potential biomedical applications of nanorobots. (G) Magnetic helical microrobot for cargo delivery. Scale bar, 50 μm. (H) Microgrippers for high-precision surgery. Scale bar, 100 μm. (I) Antibody-immobilized microrobot for sensing and isolating cancer cells. Scale bar, 30 μm. (J) RBC membrane–coated nanomotor for biodetoxification.

The Science Robotics article reviews recent progress and provides perspectives on the future of micro/nanorobots in biomedicine, with a focus on directed drug delivery, precision surgery, medical diagnosis and detoxification.

Thanks to recent advances in the design, fabrication, and operation, the newest micro/nanorobots have greatly enhanced power, function, and versatility, while effectively converting diverse energy sources into movement and force. Unlike their large robotic counterparts, these tiny robots can navigate through the body’s narrowest capillaries and perform procedures down to the cellular level. These tiny robots are now poised to have major impacts on disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Getting there will require ever closer collaborations between robotics, medical and clinical researchers, and the kinds of nanotechnology pioneers that define the Jacobs School’s NanoEngineering Department.

Some of the real-world applications of nanoengineering research at UC San Diego, including micro/nanorobots, were on display recently at a new event called NanoXpo. The industry-focused event highlighted the breadth of research in the Jacobs School’s NanoEngineering department. Read the NanoXpo story here or go directly to the NanoXpo audio story on SoundCloud.

In addition to the Science Robotics review, the publications lists from both Joe Wang’s Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics and the Liangfang Zhang’s Nanomaterials & Nanomedicine Laboratory provide many examples of cutting edge approaches to this exciting research area.

Learn more about the UC San Diego Contextual Robotics Institute

Story written by Daniel Kane.

Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering

Liezel Labios
Jacobs School of Engineering