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Harvard University develops laser-steering micro-robots

Views:1     Author:Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-04-01      Origin:Site

On January 14, 021, robotics engineers from the Wyss Institute of Harvard University and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) developed a laser-steering micro-robot that can be integrated with existing endoscopic tools. Used for minimally invasive surgery. Their method was reported on "Science Robot".


The end of the endoscope tool must be highly flexible to achieve visualization and manipulation of the surgical site in the target tissue. At present, the available energy sources delivered through optical fibers or electrodes limit the accuracy of surgery and may cause unnecessary burns and smoke in adjacent tissues. Although laser technology will be an attractive solution, the laser beam requires precise guidance, positioning and rapid repositioning of the distal end of the endoscope, which is not possible with the relatively bulky technologies currently available.


The team faced challenges in the design, actuation, and microfabrication of the optical steering mechanism. The micro-robot can strictly control the path of the laser beam after it exits the optical fiber. These challenges, coupled with the requirements for speed and accuracy, and size constraints make development and design more difficult. The entire machine must be placed in a cylindrical structure with a diameter approximately the diameter of the drinking tube before it can be used for endoscopic surgery.


At the Wyss Institute (Wyss) Associate Professor Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Science Robert Wood (Robert Wood) and Wyss Institute (Wyss) Bio-Inspired Engineering Institute and SEAS postdoctoral fellow Peter York ( Under the leadership of Peter York), the researchers developed a miniature robot measuring 6×16 mm, which can operate at high speed and precision, and can be integrated with existing endoscopic tools.


Researcher York said: "With its wide range of connections, minimal footprint and fast and precise movements, the laser steering end effector has great potential. You only need to simply insert it into the existing endoscopic equipment. It can improve the effect of surgery."


Demonstrated in a rubber colon


The laser steering device is demonstrated in a model the size of a human colon.


The team demonstrated their laser steering end effector, miniaturized to a cylinder with a diameter of only 6 mm and a length of only 16 mm. The demonstration showed that the micro-robot can effectively draw and track complex trajectories, for example, it can perform multiple laser ablation in a large range at high speed, and can be repeated with high accuracy.


"For steering and redirecting the laser beam, we found that using three small mirrors to configure a device with a diameter of 6 mm and a length of 16 mm can quickly rotate relative to each other in a small galvanometer." Mechanical engineer Rut Pena Said: "In order to achieve this goal, we used the method in our microfabrication arsenal: modular components are gradually laminated on the millimeter-level superstructure. This microfabrication method involves rapid iteration of the design. The best solution is to provide a robust strategy for mass-manufacturing successful products."


Professor Wood said: "In this multidisciplinary approach, we managed to use our capabilities to quickly build complex micro-robot mechanisms. We have developed this mechanism over the past decade to provide clinicians with a non-destructive approach. The solution enables them to advance minimally invasive surgery in the human body while saving lives or discovering potential life threats."


In order to further prove that the device can be used for endoscopy tasks when connected to the end of a common colonoscope, York and Pea, at the suggestion of Wyss clinical researcher Daniel Kent, the device is connected to the end of the colonoscope, and it is made of rubber. Simulate the excision of polyps on the desktop phantom tissue. The team used remote operations to successfully guide the device through the tissue and remove polyps.


This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.


Wood’s micro-robot researchers and Wyss Institute’s technology transfer experts applied for a patent on this research result.


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