The cult 60’s movie Fantastic Voyage imagined a world where people and submarines would somehow get shrunk down until they were tiny enough to be injected into the bloodstream and remove clots.
That day is still very far into the future, if at all. But robotic technology is much closer than you might imagine. Scientists have been able to create tiny implants for some time but until now they had to be stationary devices because there was no way of powering them.
Up to now the only tiny batteries available are still relatively large compared to the function of the device and would need to be constantly replaced as they ran down. As well as reliability issues there were safety issues to be overcome for something going inside the human body.
Now American scientists have demonstrated they have found a way around this problem. Engineers with Stanford University have come up with a way of powering miniature devices from outside the body using wireless technology. Major trials are now underway for a detailed evaluation but significant steps have been made already.
Early plans imagine a tiny robot that would travel through arteries and veins to provide vital diagnostic information or even carry out localised procedures.
The Stanford breakthrough has been led by electrical engineer Ada Poon, among the possible actions that tiny robots could carry out would include improved pacemakers. Current ones have to give up a lot of room for batteries which need replacing, which is uncomfortable for patients. But other options being looked at include ear implants and blood pressure sensors, promising microscopic control.
Over time scientists see the devices moving on to disintegrate blood clots and destroy blood platelet build up. The possibilities will be endless.