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E. Coli Inspired Propulsion for Swimming Microrobots

[+] Author Affiliations
Bahareh Behkam, Metin Sitti

Carnegie Mellon University

Paper No. IMECE2004-59621, pp. 1037-1041; 5 pages
  • ASME 2004 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Dynamic Systems and Control, Parts A and B
  • Anaheim, California, USA, November 13 – 19, 2004
  • Conference Sponsors: Dynamic Systems and Control Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4706-3 | eISBN: 0-7918-4178-2, 0-7918-4179-0, 0-7918-4180-4
  • Copyright © 2004 by ASME


Medical applications are among the most fascinating areas of microrobotics. For long, scientists have dreamed of miniature smart devices that can travel inside the human body and carry out a host of complex operations such as minimally invasive surgery (MIS), highly localized drug delivery, and screening for diseases that are in their very early stages. Still a distant dream, significant progress in micro and nanotechnology brings us closer to materializing it. For such a miniature device to be injected into the body, it has to be 800 μm or smaller in diameter. Miniature, safe and energy efficient propulsion systems hold the key to maturing this technology but they pose significant challenges. Scaling the macroscale natation mechanisms to micro/nano length scales is unfeasible. It has been estimated that a vibrating-fin driven swimming robot shorter than 6 mm can not overcome the viscous drag forces in water. In this paper, the authors propose a new type of propulsion inspired by the motility mechanism of bacteria with peritrichous flagellation, such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium and Serratia marcescens. The perfomance of the propulsive mechanism is estimated by modeling the dynamics of the motion. The motion of the moving organelle is simulated and key parameters such as velocity, distribution of force and power requirments for different configurations of the tail are determined theoretically. In order to validate the theoretical result, a scaled up model of the swimming robot is fabricated and characterized in silicone oil using the Buckingham PI theorem for scaling. The results are compared with the theoretically computed values. These robots are intended to swim in stagnation/low velocity biofluid and reach currently inaccessible areas of the human body for disease inspection and possibly treatment. Potential target regions to use these robots include eyeball cavity, cerebrospinal fluid and the urinary system.

Copyright © 2004 by ASME
Topics: Propulsion



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