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Description

While the futuristic vision of micro and nanorobotics is of intelligent machines that navigate throughout our bodies searching for and destroying disease, we have a long way to go to get there. Progress is being made, though, and the past decade has seen impressive advances in the fabrication, powering, and control of tiny motile devices. Much of our work focuses on creating systems for controlling micro and nanorobots in liquid as well as pursuing applications of these devices. Larger scale microrobots for delivering drugs to the retina to treat eye diseases such as age related macular degeneration and retinal vein and artery occlusion are moving towards clinical trials. As size decreases to the nanoscale, we have been inspired by motile bacteria, such as E . coli, and have developed nanorobots that swim with a similar technique. Applications we pursue at these scales are for the treatment of breast cancer and cerebral infarctions. The potential impact of this technology on society is high, particularly for biomedical applications, though many challenges remain in developing micro and nano robots that will be useful to society. An overarching requirement for achieving breakthroughs in this area is the need to bring together expertise from a wide variety of science and engineering disciplines. Robotics brings expertise in the planning and control of mechanisms with many degrees of freedom in uncertain environments. Nanotechnology teaches innovative approaches to fabricating nanoscale machines. In addition, biomedical imaging advances are needed, as is fundamental insight into the nature of fluid dynamics at very small scales. Medical professionals must be tightly integrated into the development cycle, and experts in developing business models and intellectual property must be closely consulted. As systems such as these enter clinical trials, and as commercial applications of this new technology are realized, radically new therapies and uses will result that have yet to be envisioned.

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