Israeli scientists design robot to squeeze through small intestine

Ben-Gurion University researchers predict the snake-like, ingestible device will revolutionize colonoscopy tests

A depiction of the SAW (single actuator wave-like robot) designed by Israeli scientists at Ben Gurion University. (Screen capture/YouTube)
A depiction of the SAW (single actuator wave-like robot) designed by Israeli scientists at Ben Gurion University. (Screen capture/YouTube)

A tiny ingestible robot designed by Israeli scientists may one day have the capacity to slither its way through the small intestine, upgrading the effectiveness of the colonoscopy test.

Created by scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the SAW (single actuator wave-like robot) will have the ability to navigate forward and backward through the cramped terrain of the small intestine thanks to its unique wave-like locomotion. It would be able to analyze the digestive tube using a small camera attached to the snake-like robot, according to a report last week on the Live Science website.

“The external shape of the robot is a 2D projection of a rotating helix.The result is a continuously moving wave. We can simply reverse the direction by reversing the direction of rotation of the motor,” explained mechanical engineer David Zarrouk.

The SAW is constructed using interlocking 3D-printed pieces of plastic that resemble vertebrae.

While the demo version in its current state is still too large to be used to analyze human insides, it continues to be tinkered with and tested on a variety of contours. The Ben-Gurion team hopes to soon use the SAW to examine living creatures, such as pigs.

The ability to swallow the miniaturized adaptation will signify a revolutionary breakthrough in colonoscopy tests, which most patients find uncomfortable. Present day procedures are carried out by doctors inserting a flexible tube with a camera attached up the patient’s anus, but this can only analyze the large intestine.

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