Medical care... One of the most important aspects of our lives. How can robotization and automation benefit medicine? What threats can humans face in the future? Can a robot surpass a human? Can humans and artificial intelligence exist in harmony and under what conditions? What perspectives are open when humans and all scientific and technological potentials unite in the Creative Society?

It is enough just to “enter” a request for robotization into a search engine and make sure that no matter what area of human activity you take, robots successfully master it. Today in the world there are surgical robots, nurse robots, therapeutic robots, transport robots, bioprinters.

I was most interested in the increasingly popular topic of microrobotics in medicine. Many scientists now are developing microrobots and nanorobots for the purpose of targeted delivery of drugs to the human body or performing micro-operations. The future of this industry is very promising, as it opens up a lot of opportunities. 

Before we start to get acquainted with examples of microrobots, I want to reveal the concepts that I managed to find, what is "micro" and "nano". It is generally accepted that in nature there are micro-, nano-, pico-, and other ranges of measurements. The micro-range includes all objects from 100 µm to 100 nm, and the nano-range includes all objects from 1 to 100 nm. Illustrated in the figure below.

Micro-, nano-, pico- measurement ranges

Also from other sources about the definition of "nano" you should pay more attention to the moment of change in the properties of the object itself. For example:

"...the most significant is the indication that 'real nano' begins at the moment when new properties of substances related to the transition to these scales and different from the properties of bulk materials appear. That is, the most essential and most important quality of nanoparticles, their main difference from micro- and macroparticles is the appearance of their fundamentally new properties, which are not manifested at other sizes" [13].

In this article, the words "microrobots" or "microbots" will be used very often. To understand, microrobots/microbots are remotely controlled robots that are capable of performing specific types of tasks.

So, let's begin.

Microrobots controlled by ultrasound and air bubbles

A group of scientists led by Professor Mingming Wu developed cell-sized microrobots, which are controlled by ultrasound. In September 2021 the article "Biologically inspired micro-robotic swimmers remotely controlled by ultrasound waves" was published in the journal "Lab on a Chip". [1].

The micro-robots are printed on a 3D printer using NanoScribe laser lithography. This principle creates three-dimensional nanostructures by directly writing them onto the light-sensitive resin. As the professor herself states, it was the movement of bacteria and sperm cells that inspired their team to create these micro-robotic swimmers. 

The microbots are shaped like a triangle, which looks like an insect crossed with a rocket ship.

An image of a microswimmer printed on a 3D printer. ALLATRA Vesti

An important feature of the robot is a pair of hollows on its back. When the microswimmer is immersed in the solution, small air bubbles are automatically trapped in each plane because the polymer material it is made of is hydrophobic, and therefore water-repellent. When the ultrasonic transducer is pointed at the bot, the air bubbles begin to oscillate, thus creating vortices that push the microswimmer forward.

In the future, there are plans to create microrobots made of biocompatible and biodegradable material so that they can dissolve harmlessly in the human body after the task is completed. Micro-robotics can advance current technologies in targeted drug delivery and remote microsurgery.

Switzerland has developed microbots that can change their shape to suit their environment

Researchers at EPFL and ETH Zurich have created tiny medical robots that adapt to environmental conditions, they change shape and the way they move. In order for the robot to transform itself effectively, the developers designed it so that the transition is done by reading blood sugar levels. These bots are made of layers of biocompatible hydrogel, which are composed according to the origami principle. And with the help of magnetic microparticles, it is possible to extract the bots from the body without harm using an alternating electromagnetic field. 

According to the creators themselves, the new microrobots can also move on their own.

Swiss microbots are able to change their shape to suit their environment

Scientists experimented with microbots by passing them through narrow glass tubes imitating the shape of blood vessels. They passed them through liquids of different viscosities. These experiments allowed the researchers to determine which shape was more effective for which environment. In the future, these robots can be used in the delivery of drugs to the required place or to perform microoperations in the human body [2].

California scientists created microrobotic doctors

According to the publication ScienceRobotics, scientists from the California Institute of Technology have created microbots that can move around the human body using external control [3]. These robots are shaped like a microscopic sphere made of metallic magnesium. The sphere is covered with a thin layer of gold and parylene, which is a polymer resistant to the aggressive environment of the human stomach. The microrobot has a small hole, like a porthole, that leaves the metal magnesium open. When the robot enters the stomach, the magnesium reacts with the liquid, creating a stream of bubbles. This allows the microswimmer to move around in the human body until it collides with something. A layer of medicine was also added to the structure of the microsphere.

California scientists have created microrobot doctors

The researchers also placed the device in a microcapsule made of paraffin, which allows the microrobot to be resistant to aggressive environments. The microbot is controlled by photoacoustic computed tomography, where pulses of infrared laser light are used to control the movement of microspheres in real time.

So far, only mice have been tested. In the future, there are plans to use this technology to deliver drugs to the required place in the human body.

Chinese researchers teach microrobots to swim

Scientists from Harbin Polytechnic University (Heilongjiang Province, China) have designed microrobots that can swim through human blood vessels [4]. Robotic swimmers can be controlled by an external magnetic field. The researchers found that if the device is controlled in a fluid at 25 Hz and the size of the bot is about 5 micrometers, it can move at a speed of about 60 micrometers per second. And that's almost 12 times the size of the microswimmer itself.

Микропловец под микроскопом

The robot consists of three parts: the central part, which is made of gold, and two movable nickel "arms," which are connected to the central part thanks to porous silver joints.

Chinese microrobots can swim

Human trials (traveling through the bloodstream) have not yet been conducted, since the microrobots themselves must consist of biocompatible materials. Scientists claim that in 5-10 years it will already be possible to conduct experiments on human organs. For example, the urinary tract or the eyeball. Researchers also report that not just one robot swimmer, but thousands of them will be needed for targeted drug delivery.

Predatory plants helped scientists create microbots that have been inside the eye

Scientists from Germany, Denmark, and China, led by Peer Fischer from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, have developed microrobots that are controlled by an external magnetic field. The researchers learned how to control the device in the dense vitreous body of the eye. Before that, microbots could move only in biological fluids, but not in tissues. These robots could in the future cure eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and others, according to an article published in Science Advances website [6].

Движение микропловцов

Microswimmers consist of two parts: a 500 nm head and a spiral tail. The length of the robot is 2 µm. This roughly corresponds to the grid cell of hyaluronic macromolecules, of which the vitreous body of the eye is composed. The micro robot is made of silicon dioxide and nickel.

Predatory plants help scientists create microbots

The main feature of this device is its gliding coating based on perfluorocarbons. Scientists borrowed the idea from the "predatory plants" of the genus Nepenthes. Their lilies, which they use to catch insects, are coated with a very slippery substance that allows them to hold their prey inside. The perfluorocarbon coating is resistant to pressure and mechanical damage.

The test was carried out on the porcine eye because it closely resembles the human eye in structure. The result was a successful overcoming by robots of about a centimeter and penetration to the retina.

Successful penetration by microrobots to the retina of a pig's eye

Live microrobots invented in the U.S.

Scientists led by the author of the experiment Michael Levin (evolutionary biologist) from Tufts University in the USA have created biological microrobots — xenobots — for the first time. These are microscopic robots named after the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis, from whose cells they were created.

African clawed frog Xenopus laevis

The researchers took the best option and created a programmable organism from frog embryonic stem cells. Scientists separated the cells and placed them in a Petri dish. And already in the dish, these organisms began to develop on their own. They began to move due to the contraction of the heart muscle cells, and the skin cells created a kind of skeleton that holds the entire body structure together. These bots were developed in January 2020 [7].

The size of the formed spheres averages about 487 ± 39 (small spheres) and up to 602 ± 30 (large spheres) micrometers. The lifespan of the organisms is 9-10 days, while requiring no food sources.

Living robots - xenobots

At the University of Vermont Research Center, various combinations of skin and heart cells were modeled using artificial intelligence. The calculations made determine the shape of the biorobot to perform a specific task: its movement and function. The xenobots were created in strict accordance with the algorithm, and the behavior is pre-planned. Biologists noticed that the actions of the xenobots depended on their structure and shape. The data was sent to the programmers, who simulated a virtual environment, similar to the simulation for the digital versions of the xenobots. Several forms were created this way.

Xenobots’ Form

Another feature for xenobots was the ability to regenerate and fully restore the original form when damaged. And recently, researchers discovered that biorobots are capable of creating their own kind, repeating their original form.

Xenobot regeneration process

The use of these microbots is predicted by the developers themselves in the field of medicine as a targeted drug delivery, as well as for cleaning of radioactive waste or for collecting microplastics from the world's oceans. A paper was published about this discovery in Science Robotics [8].

Interesting Facts

  1. Microrobots are able to remove radioactive waste

Scientists have succeeded in developing microrobots to capture and remove radioactive uranium from water. In 2019, a ZIF-8 micromotor was added to the bot. Its size is 15 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Iron atoms and iron oxide nanoparticles were introduced into the structure of the device to stabilize the microbot and make it magnetic. Platinum nanoparticles placed at the ends of the rod react and convert hydrogen peroxide into water. Oxygen bubbles are released, which sets the robot in motion. Of the experiments, it should be noted that the microbots did the job in an hour and removed 96% of the radioactive uranium in the simulated wastewater. According to the researchers, these robots can be used not only for waste removal, but also in waste recycling [9].

  1. Microbots can clean water

Scientists from Max Planck University have managed to develop microrobots for water purification. Janus microbots are a sphere that consists of two parts: one made of magnesium, which allows you to move in the water, as magnesium reacts and creates bubbles, while the other part consists of an alloy of iron, gold and silver, with which remove harmful bacteria. These robots move on their own, the magnesium fuel lasts for 15-20 minutes. During this period they purify water up to 80%. It is possible to extract the bots from the water with the help of a magnet. Scientists also report that they have not noticed any harmful waste in the water from the purification. These developments are reported in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces [10].

  1. Microrobot cleans water from microplastics

A team of scientists in the Netherlands has developed a miniature robot measuring 1x1 cm. The robot, which is made of fast-acting polymers based on the principle of coral polyps, can move using light and gravity. It has tentacles that it uses to attract garbage. In the future, there are plans to create an array of artificial polyps that can interact with each other. This is reported in the journal PNAS [11].

The journal Matter published a study that scientists have developed a new kind of microrobots that allow the splitting of microplastics from the world's oceans. They are called miniature magnetic coils and are less than 1 mm in size. These bots are metal coils that are coated with nitrogen and manganese. When experiments were conducted to recycle microplastics, the output was carbon dioxide, water and a number of neutral salts, which are not hazardous to the environment. Scientists placed the bots in different water compositions and found that within eight hours the microplastic content was reduced by 30-50% [12].


As we can see, science and technology are developing quite successfully in the direction of robotization and automation. As the researchers themselves say, micro-robotization will not only allow for micro-operations and targeted drug delivery in the future, but will also allow for a better understanding of the world on a micro-level. While microrobots cannot completely replace doctors, you still need to monitor and control the bots' actions. They still don't have artificial intelligence, but xenobots are very close to that idea. I think it's a matter of a few years, maybe less. After all, when artificial superintelligence is invented, all human activities will be under its control.

The threat of total unemployment is also present here. Because once we learn how to implement artificial intelligence into a microrobot, surgeons will not be needed. You wouldn't even need people to control the robot. It will have an AI that will not make mistakes, it will do what is put into it. And that means that a huge number of specialists will be left without a livelihood.

I have heard people say on the topic of the fourth industrial revolution that robots are not eternal, they also wear out, they need maintenance, they need to create new devices. But unfortunately, we don't see the situation in its entirety yet. We look at it through rose-colored glasses... The thing is, if artificial intelligence is already replacing humans in art, it is not difficult for it to take and fix another robot, let alone do maintenance. We create something new with good intentions, we see only the positive properties of this or that technology, but we do not look at the dangers it can create. Will we heal and save lives, or will we program a microrobot to kill humans? A robot is just a tool, and how we use it is up to the human being.

Now let's look at this technology in today's consumer society. What do we see? Wonderful technology that can save a person's life in a short period of time without any aggravating effects on the body and save money on treatment. Will people come to a human doctor or will they use a cheaper and better quality microbot doctor service? We understand that developing this situation further will lead to the unemployment of doctors.

Now they are developing robots that successfully purify water from radioactive uranium, and they can even purify the world's oceans from microplastics. And this is a very significant tool that can solve environmental issues in a short period of time. But in a consumer society, will people think about this? Unfortunately, we have become hostages of the established format. The motivation for the manufacturer is mainly a need to make money or to be important. And the motivation for the consumer is to enjoy the comforts of civilization or just for image. Will the manufacturer produce micro-robots just because it is necessary to save the Earth's ecology? After all, he, like everyone else, is an inhabitant of planet Earth. And this also concerns him. Today, many scientists are forced to take grants for research that is completely useless to society, simply because they want to eat. And even if there are honest people who want to work for the good, they still face the absurdity of consumer society: materials and equipment are not free. Or simply respected colleagues may not support getting a grant, even if the cause is noble. How long will such scientists be able to work on their own enthusiasm? How long do they have enough of their own strength and resources?

Today, scientists, doctors are forced to ask exorbitant fees for their services because of the existence of a consumerist format, or to seek illegal earnings that may border on endangering the lives of others. In an environment in which treating people is seen as an unsustainable business model, the doctor, overstepping his conscience, does not cure the person, but rather maintains a state of incomplete recovery. After all, it is a guarantee that the person will go to him or her again. It is like an invested dividend, a secure future. Will every doctor honestly fight for human life just because it is the highest value? Especially in times of climate catastrophe, when doctors may be more in demand than ever. People who have lost everything because of climate change quite often do not have the means to pay for even basic medical care. What are they to do then? And what should a doctor do? After all, he also has to survive.

Will we launch microrobots that can clean up areas contaminated by radiation through human fault, just because it affects the environment and everyone's health in general? Will we act like humans in a time of rapid climate change on a planet where everything will be valuable for our salvation?

Not in a consumer society. After all, everyone is concerned about not being left homeless, without food and clothing. You can't blame anyone for anything, because each of us has contributed his or her share to shaping our modern society. We all depend on one another. 

A person now in society often displays his or her basest qualities. He or she does not know how to control his or her emotions, he or she does not recognize his or her pride. Person fights an external enemy, regarding those around him or her as potentially dangerous, while forgetting that the only cause of all conflict is human pride and ego. The person displays power and dominance over others, and manipulates. With this in mind, how do you think we would use microrobots if we had them in our hands?

As Igor Novikov, head of the Kyiv branch of SingularityU, said at the international online conference "Global crisis. This already affects everyone" about the work of the neural network:

"...there is a simple rule: if the Dataset on which a neural network is trained was made by humans, then the actions and quality of this neural network will be a mirror of the Dataset. That is, by and large, if we have racial prejudices built into Datasets, or religious prejudices, or anything else, then a neural network that we think is perfectly rational will in fact be as irrational and biased as its creator.”

Now let us consider this technology in the Creative Society. Let us imagine that we already live in such a society, where the value of any human life comes first, and all questions, decisions, actions, technologies, development will start from the first foundation — Human Life. Then a lot of possibilities open up before the scientist, the medical man. For example, when all mankind has decided that we need to clear the Earth of microplastics, or to clear territories of radioactive uranium, or to improve life-saving technologies, then funds will be directed to make the necessary number of microrobots and launch them into the ocean, into contaminated areas or into the human body.

You'll say, so what's the difference then with our consumer world? They will steal again. The difference is substantial. The point is that there will be no conditions for the non-implementation of the decision made by society, because everyone will be able to control the process of implementation with the help of the electoral platform. The eighth foundation, the Self-governance of society, gives everyone the right to do this. Everyone in his place can go in at any time and take action in real time, if necessary, and get reliable information. And for this there is a fourth foundation — Transparency and openness of information for all. That is, in fact, the very same person, who understands the responsibility, will not allow anything anti-human to happen. Well, in order for a person to understand the difference between the human and anti human qualities, he or she must responsibly approach the education of high moral qualities in himself or herself. This is the fifth foundation — the Creative ideology.

The third foundation, Human Safety, guarantees the preservation of the means for a comfortable existence for anyone in society. This includes free and quality medical care, education, housing and food, and full social security. And the seventh foundation, Justice and equality, guarantees a person employment and the same worldwide decent wages for an identical profession. Limiting the capitalization of the individual allows us to control the fairness of the distribution of resources among all people on the planet. Where are we going to find money for free medical care, education, housing and food? Let's simply remove funding for industries that take life or bring no value or benefit to society because they contradict the first foundation. For example, the military industry. At the same time, specialists previously employed in these fields will be able to direct all their experience and potential to the creative direction: the military can become excellent rescuers, and scientists instead of creating weapons will be engaged in the same nanotechnology or any other useful for society topic.

As we can see, one foundation flows from the other, they are interrelated. This only tells us that the 8 foundations of the Creative Society can only work together when they are legally enacted in all countries of the world.

Right now, different groups of scientists are trying to create something unique and universal in micro-robotics. I would not say that their attempts are 100 percent successful, although there are already good results. Researchers are working on improving the biocompatibility of materials, ways to remove both microrobots and nanorobots from the body and to dispose of nanowaste. They carry out tests of nanorobot control, assessment of toxicological risks and side effects. But so far there is a lack of knowledge, experience, skills, means and opportunities. Why is it so? The conditions of the consumer society. We are all separated, fighting for supremacy, for exclusivity. What is that for? Because if we are the first, then we can earn a fortune and attract attention to ourselves.

Imagine if we put all this garbage out of our heads, remove all divisions and unite on the idea of the Creative Society, then incredible opportunities open up before mankind. From the above examples of microbots each of them has some special feature: one can swim, the other is made of biocompatible materials, the third is created from living tissue. Of course, scientists face problems or failures in creating new technologies, but if we unite all the potential of our world's greatest minds and their achievements, and focus on one goal, then our medicine, science and technology will breakthrough far ahead. Such prospects open up not only in the field of nanotechnology, but also in any other field — education, climatology, ecology, economics, space exploration, and others.

Unification is a great power. Even K. E. Tsiolkovsky said:

“The Golden Age will include people who will learn to unite.

Unification also has its own law: two auras amplify each other 7 times, if people are like-minded, the wave is the same, aimed at the same goal. 3 people — 7 squared, i.e. 49 times. If there are 4 people, they amplify each other by a factor of 7 to the 3rd power — 343 times!

Therefore, the more people, the more valuable each next, he multiplies the power many times over. A team is a great force.”

So what do we choose?

Literature and image sources:
  1. Journal article in Lab on a Chip, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry, "Biologically inspired micro-robotic swimmers remotely controlled by ultrasound waves.
  2. Article on the website of robotics "Team EPFL and ETH Zurich presented tiny medical robots that change shape while moving in the human body (+video)".
  3. Article on the ScienceRobotics website "A microrobotic system guided by photoacoustic computed tomography for targeted navigation in intestines in vivo".
  4. Newscientist.com article "Tiny robots swim the front crawl through your veins".
  5. Article on biomolecula website "Micro-/nanorobots — new friends of humanity".
  6. Publication on the website Science Advances "A swarm of slippery micropropellers penetrates the vitreous body of the eye".
  7. Article on the site of A&F "Who are the xenobots? Scientists in the U.S. have created creepy but useful organisms".
  8. Scientific paper on the website in Science Robotics "A cellular platform for the development of synthetic living machines".
  9. Publication on the ACS Publications website "Radioactive Uranium Preconcentration via Self-Propelled Autonomous Microrobots Based on Metal-Organic Frameworks".
  10. Scientific paper published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, "Microbots Decorated with Silver Nanoparticles Kill Bacteria in Aqueous Media.
  11. Article in PNAS "An artificial aquatic polyp that wirelessly attracts, grasps, and releases objects".
  12. Article on the information portal "Krym Zdorovye" "Found a way to remove all plastic from the world's oceans".
  13. Article in the journal "Ecology and Life" "Nanotechnology," "nanoscience" and "nanoobjects": what does "nano" mean? Authors: Levon Borisovich Piotrovsky (Research Institute of Experimental Medicine, Northwestern Branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences), Evgeniy Adolfovich Katz (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel).

It's interesting

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