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Gizmorama - May 18, 2016

Good Morning,

Leave it to MIT to develop ingestible origami robots that
unfold and operate in simulated stomachs. What they'll be used for, I don't know, but there's potential there.

Learn about this interesting story and more from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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* Researchers use laser pulses to direct protons *

MUNICH, Germany - Scientists in Germany recently manipulated the positioning of atoms inside a hydrocarbon molecule using ultra short laser pulses.

The scientists were able to dislodge an outer hydrogen atom from the hydrocarbon molecule using laser pulses lasting only a few femtoseconds. The dislodged atom then migrated to the other side, where it reattached. The process was monitored using coincident 3D momentum imaging spectroscopy.

The movement was recognized as proton migration, an important part of many chemical reaction processes.

The team of scientists from the University of Munich and Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics successfully demonstrated their proton-manipulation technique on more complex molecules -- hydrocarbons with longer chain lengths.

The research -- detailed in the journal Physical Review Letters -- could prove useful in the synthesization of new chemicals and materials.

"Our experiments have shown that we are not only able to direct electrons in the microcosm, but also hydrogen atoms, which are about 2000 times heavier," researcher Matthias Kling, a professor of physics at LMU, said in a news release.

Researchers believe the resonance of the light particles' wave nature is key in dislodging the atoms.

"We hope that we will be able to take apart various kinds of substances in the future and put them back together at will," Kling added.

*-- Ingestible origami robot unfolds, operates in simulated stomach --*

BOSTON - Researchers at MIT have already unveiled several iterations of their unfolding "origami" robot. This week, MIT engineers revealed an ingestible version.

Scientists demonstrated the swallowable capsule in a simulated human stomach and esophagus.

"It's really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care," Daniela Rus, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said in a news release. "For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system. It's really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether."

Once inside the stomach, the robot unfolds and can be manipulated using magnetic fields. Scientists designed the robot to retrieve swallowed button batteries and repair small wounds.

A series of slits in the robot design allows it to assume the preset shape when it unfolds. Because the latest iteration of the robot relied on a new biocompatible material -- with a different stiffness -- researchers had to augment their arrangement of slits.

Their previous model relied on a friction-based propulsion mechanism called "stick-slip." The environs of the stomach involved moving through fluids as well as crawling along solid surfaces, so scientists had to adapt their design accordingly.

"In our calculation, 20 percent of forward motion is by propelling water -- thrust -- and 80 percent is by stick-slip motion," explained Shuhei Miyashita, first-author of a new paper describing the ingestible robot.

Researchers said their work involved several trips to meat purveyors at some of Boston's Asian markets. They used dried pig intestine -- commonly used as sausage casing -- to encapsulate their robot. They also modeled their synthetic stomach after a pig stomach.

The robot's design team is set to present their latest invention at this week's International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in Stockholm, Sweden.


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