This Nanobot Gun Could One Day Assemble Inside Your Body to Save You

By Chris Mills on at

One of science fiction’s biggest unfulfilled promises are medical nanobots: tiny little machines that will run around your body and right nature’s wrongs. Scientists from the University of Houston are setting out to change all of that, with an incredibly clever self-assembling robotic gun that can clear blockages or inject drugs from inside your body.

In a paper presented last month at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, researchers from the University of Houston and Boston Children’s Hospital demonstrated a method for turning a small group of robots into a Gauss gun inside your body, capable of firing a projectile to clear up blocked arteries or inject drugs into specific sites.

On their own, the individual components of the robot are basically just dumb pieces of steel. But using the magnetic field of an MRI machine, they can be manipulated and guided into doing very specific things — like forming a Gauss gun, which uses potential magnetic energy to fire a projectile (kind of like a deadly magnetic Newton’s cradle).

In practice, the researchers found they could use an MRI to navigate a series of steel balls through a liquid maze, line them up, and then use them to launch a needle at a target. The test was on a much larger scale than human arteries and veins, but the proof of concept seems sound. Now, they just need to work on persuading everyone that the tiny robotic injection guns are completely safe. [IEEE Spectrum]