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>This May Be Good

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>A Swimming Bot Inside Your Body?

>he Boston Globe describes the efforts of a Japanese-born scientist to develop new technologies for use in surgery. His last project is to build a swimming robot designed to explore the human gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) from esophagus to colon. This 2-centimeter long robot will have a swimming tail to deliver the energy picked from the outside and use it to steer it in the GI tract. It will also be able to send back images to the physicians and to deliver therapy. Coincidentally, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting about another medical robot helper able to crawl like an inchworm into your heart. This second robot, the HeartLander, is designed by Cameron Riviere, an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh. But it’s not an independen robot.

The device is inserted through a small incision in the chest and controlled with a wire tether by an external operator. Two suction-pad feet and a flexible midsection enable the device to move at about half a foot a minute. “It is not completely independent or detached, but can freely move with the beating heart,” Riviere said. Just 6 millimeters high and 8 wide, the robot can squeeze into the space between the heart and its outer lining. Tiny holes on the feet create a vacuum that ensures HeartLander remains attached.

Now, let’s move to the swimming robot designed by Nobuhiko Hata, technical director of image guided therapy at Brigham And Women’s Hospital and a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. Here are his comments about a trip to Japan which led him to the design of this swimming robot.

“In Japan they’re thinking seriously on integrating robots as partners” with human beings, he says. This cooperative philosophy inspired Hata to think about applying mechanical techniques to problems he had previously only been thinking about through computers. The result: “the swimming robot.”

There are similar devices under development, but Hata’s has the distinction of “swimming” — using oscillations in the magnetic field of an MRI machine to power its fins. It will literally dart like a minnow through the body’s cavities, taking images, and, perhaps, releasing chemicals or directing a tiny laser at the problem area. Hata’s robot is still in the early stages of development, but this month he will present a paper on it at a radiologists’ conference in Berlin.

In “Radiology and GI Imaging Close the Divide,” Imaging Technology News gives more details about this active swimming endoscope. (Cristen C. Bolan, Imaging Technology News, April issue 2007)

The current capsule endoscope on the market is passive — it moves down the GI tract starting with parastatic movement of the esophagus. The problem, according to Hata, is that you cannot drive the capsule toward suspicious lesions nor can you position it to do more precise scrutiny of a lesion. Hata believes that the solution to the problem is to develop an actively steerable endoscope, and, to this end, he is developing swimming micro-robots — un-tethered endoscopes for transmitting images from inside the body.

“Our technology is unique in the sense that it swims. Others have developed an endoscope, rowing it through the GI tract, but we believe that a swimming tail is the most efficient way of delivering the energy from the outside and then converting it to a propulsion pulse to steer it in the GI tract,” said Hata. The propulsion is inspired by a novel propulsion theory based on flagellar motion and is achieved by creating a traveling wave along a tail made of piezoelectric material decomposed into the natural modes of the beam. According to Dr. Hata, three individual waving tails, controlled by a magnetic field, are designed to swim in any direction.

Let’s finish with Hata’s philosophy, as reported by the Boston Globe: “On the day somebody closes my coffin, I want to count how many people I’ve saved. If it’s more than one, then my presence was worthwhile.” I could paraphrase this: if I’ve helped some readers of this blog, I would have been useful.
Sources: Andrew Rimas, The Boston Globe, May 7, 2007; Josh Goldstein, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 7, 2007; and various websites
You’ll find related stories by following the links below.

>How The LHC Will Be Powerful Enough To Transmit Data Faster Than Today’s Web

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The network, dubbed the Grid, has been set up by the Cern labs in Geneva to tap into the processing power of computers in 12 countries.

The aim of the project is to handle data from an experiment on how the Universe began.

Cern believes the Grid could eventually provide people access to a vast pool of processing power from their desktops.

Next-gen net

The idea behind Grid technology is to link up computers around the world over the internet to create a new generation of enormously powerful machines.

The networks are needed because some problems in science are just too large for any one machine to tackle by itself.

Cern’s Grid will initially be used to handle the terabytes of data generated by an upcoming particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The technology now being deployed for particle physics will ultimately change the way that science and business are undertaken in the years to come
Ian Halliday, PParc

The LHC is going to test the Big Bang theory by smashing protons together at high energies.

The data generate by the experiment are expected to fill the equivalent of more than 20 million CDs a year and some 70,000 computers would be needed to analyse the data.

With the LHC Computing Grid project, scientists will be able to access computing resources across the world as though they were on their machine.

“The Grid enables us to harness the power of scientific computing centres wherever they may be to provide the most powerful computing resource the world has to offer,” said Les Robertson, project manager at Cern.

‘Profound effect’

The first phase covers processing resources from research institutes in 12 countries – the UK, the US, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, and Taiwan.

The final goal of the Grid is to bring together the computing power of scientific centres across the world to create a virtual supercomputer network.

In the long-term, Grid technology is predicted to revolutionise the world of computing. Ultimately it is expected to be able to provide huge processing power on tap to anyone.

“The technology now being deployed for particle physics will ultimately change the way that science and business are undertaken in the years to come,” said Ian Halliday, Chief Executive of the UK’s Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, (PParc).

“This will have a profound effect on the way society uses information technology, much as the worldwide web did.”

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is being built in a circular tunnel 27 km in circumference. The tunnel is buried around 50 to 175 m. underground. It straddles the Swiss and French borders on the outskirts of Geneva.

It planned to circulate the first beams in May 2008. First collisions at high energy are expected mid-2008 with the first results from the experiments soon after.
Large Hadron Collider: The Discovery Machine

A global collaboration of scientists is preparing to start up the greatest particle physics experiment in history