(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.
The Roadrunner community and nearby residents are highly encouraged to cast their votes at UTSA, a designated early voting site for the March 3 Texas presidential primary election.H-E-B Student Union, Bexar Room (HSU 1.102), Main Campus
The best way to learn what UTSA has to offer is to experience it for yourself. Come to our Open House and see all that UTSA has to offer. The day features admissions and financial aid workshops and presentations, campus tours and much more.Various Locations, Main Campus
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in health care, you won’t want to miss UTSA’s 14th annual Health Professions Day. Meet with representatives of health professions programs at schools such as Texas Tech University Health Science Center, University of Texas Medical Branch, University North Texas Health Science Center, University of the Incarnate Word, and many more. Free and open to UTSA students, local area college and high school students, and community members.Student Union, Retama Galleria (SU First Floor Corridor), Main Campus
An FBI subject matter expert will discuss the threat to U.S. technology and public sector from foreign adversaries, specific technologies sought and vectors used to illicitly obtain them, how to best safeguard intellectual property.Durango Building (DB 2.112A), Downtown Campus
Why just leap when you can dash? The Alumni Association’s 36th annual Diploma Dash 5K and City Championship is a great opportunity to run or walk for a great cause: scholarships for UTSA students.Main Campus
Students are encouraged to attend to obtain important information about Spring Commencement and life after UTSA. Graduating students can order their cap and gown and other items, win prizes and capture lasting memories with fellow Roadrunners at a selfie station. Participants should take a UTSA student ID for entry.H-E-B Student Union, Ballrooms (HSU 1.104/1.106), Main Campus
UTSA’s first Wellbeing Fair is a part of the President’s Initiative of Enriching Campus Wellbeing. UTSA is committed to the well-being of each member of the campus community and recognizes that numerous factors contribute to overall wellness: physical and mental health, diet and nutrition, physical activity, stress management and self-care, social behaviors and more. The fair will give students, faculty and staff an opportunity to participate in well-being activities, obtain well-being information and learn about available services. Participants will become more competent in making healthy decisions to take a more proactive approach in their own well-being.Paseo Principal, Student Union, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.