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Tiny caterpillar-like robot to transport drugs around body

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HONG KONG (AP) — This tiny, caterpillar-like creature is one of the latest robots being developed by scientists in Hong Kong.

With soft, flexible legs it's capable of carrying heavy loads and is adaptable to hostile environments.

Inspired by the feet and leg structures of many living organisms and with high locomotion efficiency it could pave the way for medical technology advancements such as drugs delivery in the human body.

Shen Yajing, Assistant Professor at the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at City University of Hong Kong explains:

"So this robot is designed, inspired by nature. It has multiple legs, and these legs along the robot can carry a very, very heavy load, around 100 times of its own. And also, such legs allow the robot to go across obstacles or 10 times higher of its own legs."

The research team demonstrate that with its deformable soft legs, the millirobot can lift up one end of its body to form an angle of up to 90 degrees and cross an obstacle.

Yajing adds: "Its great carrying ability and efficient locomotion ability, and also obstacle-crossing ability makes the robot extremely suitable for application in a harsh environment."

Before conducting further tests in animals and eventually in humans, the research team would like to study new shapes and add extra features, as well as find a biodegradable material to make the robots from:

"Since then in that case, the robot can be decomposed (biodegrade) after drug delivery mission," explains Yajing.

The research findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications titled "A Bio-inspired Multilegged Soft Millirobot that Functions in Both Dry and Wet Conditions".

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