(Aug. 27, 2018) -- It can’t be seen with a human eye. It doesn’t look anything like C-3PO or R2-D2, or even BB-8. But, nevertheless, it is a robot (all 120nm of it) and its creators from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) are now world record holders in the Guinness World Records for creating the Smallest Medical Robot.
The series of nanorobots was created by Soutik Betal during his doctoral research in Electrical Engineering under the guidance of professors Ruyan Guo and Amar S. Bhalla in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and they could one day lead to huge medical advancements.
Guo explains, “In a nutshell, we have developed nanocomposite particles that can be remotely controlled by an electromagnetic field. They function like extremely tiny robots that interact with biological cells.”
The nanocomposites are made of two different types of multifunctional oxide materials in a “core and shell” configuration. The core is magnetic. It changes ‘shape’ in response to magnetic fields. The shell is ferroelectric. It converts pressure into electric potentials.
The magneto-elasto-electric coupled effect in the nanocomposites act as arms and legs that move the nanoparticle around to interact with targeted biological cells. The nanorobots can move cells to align with one another, push cells into different locations and possibly be used to deliver medication into a cell.
The experimental demonstration of UTSA’s remotely controlled medical robot was performed in late 2016 by Betal, who was conducting his doctoral dissertation research in Guo and Bhalla’s Multifunctional Electronics Materials and Devices Research Laboratory (MeMDRL). While the fabrication of core-shell structured materials have been developed through international research exchanges with collaborators in Brazil, the team discovered and Betal demonstrated the nanocomposites produced permeable motion.
“We were intrigued and initially puzzled at the fact that nanoparticles larger than the opening of a cell membrane’s channels could actually enter inside,” said Guo.
The nanocomposite research also benefited from the MeMDRL’s interdisciplinary research collaboration with faculty in the UTSA Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Physics and Astronomy. The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (Grant no. NSF 1002380), by the U.S. Department of Defense (Grant no. W911NF-12-1-0082) and by the UTSA Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development and Knowledge Enterprise.
Recognition for the work began when a study was published early this year in Nature - Scientific Reports. The Guinness Book of World Records designation followed the article publication.
The greatest rewards, however, may yet be ahead for the tiny robots.
“Their abilities leave room for much hope,” Guo said. “We believe cancerous cells may be specifically targeted for treatment eliminating the need for some chemotherapy treatments, and Alzheimer’s disease victims could possibly receive special treatments by aligning cells which have ceased to live in the brain. There is still much work to be done, but we are very happy for this recognition and the potential that lies ahead.”
UTSA is ranked among the nation’s top five young universities, according to Times Higher Education.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
In honor of UTSA's 50th Anniversary in 2019, the university is hosting Roadrunner Days Spring Edition - two weeks of semester-launching activities built around our deeply held values of student success, student involvement, community service and fun!Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
Tracy Cowden, Roland K. Blumberg Endowed Professor in Music and chair of the UTSA Department of Music launches the UTSA 50th Anniversary Scholars Speaker Series with Music as Medicine: The Power and Influence of Music on our Health.Radius Center, 411 E. Martin, San Antonio
UTSA African American Studies Program presents this series featuring Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University.Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus)
Join fellow Runners to walk for 10 minutes on the Main Campus. The event reminds us of the importance of exercise, diet and healthy habits in protecting our hearts.Outside the North Paseo Building, Main Campus
The annual event features authentic foods, music, dance, martial arts, shopping, games and entertainment from China, to the Indian Sub-continent, and the island nations of the Pacific. The Festival features two stages, a martial arts demonstration area, children’s hands on crafting area, anime activities, bonsai and ikebana displays, mahjong table and more.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
UTSA Libraries will host Bryan Gervais, UTSA assistant professor in the Dept. of Political Science & Geography, for his presentation "Political Incivility in the Digital Age." Pizza will be provided to UTSA students while supplies last.John Peace Library Assembly Room (JPL 4.04.22)
Level up your career with a graduate business degree from the UTSA College of Business. Join us for this Open House to learn which of our 13 degree programs is right for you.Business Building (BB 2.06.04), Main Campus
Basura Bash is a one-day, all-volunteer event to clean the San Antonio Watershed. For the past 24 years volunteers have cleaned area waterways. Join the UTSA community for the 25th Annual Basura Bash Waterways Cleanup.Maverick Creek, near Brackenridge Ave. Lot 5, Main Campus
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