Elisabeth Manville
Feb 22, 2012

Engineers develop medical device that can propel itself through the bloodstream

Stanford engineers have created a new type of self-propelled medical device that is capable of controlled motion through the bloodstream. Ada Poon, an assistant professor of engineering, has led the development of the new class of devices, which are powered wirelessly using electromagnetic radio waves. The small devices can be implanted or injected into the body. “Applications include everything from diagnostics to minimally invasive surgeries,” said Poon. She recognized that human muscle, fat and bone are not good conductors of electricity, so she utilized them as insulators rather than conductors. One model of the device drives electrical current through fluid to create a force to push it forward, while another switches current back and forth to create a swishing motion. “There is considerable room for improvement and much work remains before these devices are ready for medical applications,” explained Poon. “But for the first time in decades the possibility seems closer than ever.”

This video shows how the new device works.